Interview by Ovidiu Hrin / 2013
Can you please tell the Typopassage audience how you came to the idea of establishing the biggest archive of Czech film posters? How do/can someone plan something like this?Our entire collection is funded under the patronage of the three biggest art cinemas in Prague – Aero, Oko and Svĕtozor. In 2006 I opened in one of these theaters a store with DVDs and books about films and began to build the collection. We started from scratch. I had no single poster. Today, the collection includes over 60,000 posters in more than 10,000 series. You are right, it is not easy. Especially organizing and updating the website content, where the entire collection is available online. For some artists we also add some of their free art (book covers, LPs and so on).
The name 'Terry' from Terry posters is not only a namesake to the director Terry Gilliam but there is also a strong connection between Mr. Gilliam, his red striped left sock & Terry Posters. Could you please tell us what this 'flying-circus' is about? It's simple. I know Terry Gilliam, he is an extraordinary man. In 2006 he filmed The Brothers Grimm in the Czech Republic. I asked him if he wanted to attend the opening of our shop and become its godfather. He did it, he opened the shop and at the opening ceremony, he gave us a present - one of his socks that we later exhibited in the store (for the whole story in English and pictures visit: http://www.terry -posters.com/o-terryho-ponozkach).
Besides owning this massive archive of film ephemera you also manage 2 of the biggest art cinemas in Prague the Aero and the Světozor. Is there anything more you would have liked to have done or still hope to do besides this?First, we will try to survive. We also own AEROFILMS, the film distribution company through which we bring art films on the Czech market but, with digitization, people are disappearing from cinemas. Therefore, we strive to prevent this phenomenon and show people that in terms of quality, a film seen in cinema is incomparably better than the one seen on a computer screen.
Did you ever dream that you would be leading the life you are leading now? Is all this part of a stronger, earlier desire of yours?No. It motivates me a lot that we do de job of the state institutions which are not interested in this treasure represented by Czechoslovak posters. Unapproachable, not digitized, they do not show anything to anybody, they are not promoting the posters. Here is where we find our meaning – because the quality of the applied art in Czechoslovakia of the 60s is incredible.
Do you have any favorite posters among the vast - over 8000 - posters collection? Which ones and why?Online there are more than 13,000 ... Of course, at home I have a few posters ... such as La Dolce Vita and Il grido by Karel Vaca.
The fast moving film industry today has lead to an increased use of photographic images and designs - the Hollywood big studios "recipe". Original artistic designs of film posters, like the ones in your collection, seem to have become obsolete. What do you think, is there any chance that this great tradition could be revived somehow or we are left with enjoying the exhibitions of vintage posters?If it returns it’s not going to be at the same scale. The producers selling movies in the Czech Republic cannot afford to ask for author made film posters, and films are distributed in the Czech Republic with their international commercial poster. This will never change. We somehow avoid this by commissioning posters to students at art schools. I have already made four exhibitions and the collection has nearly 250 posters made by students, which can be seen here: http://www.terry-posters.com/tag/132-student-s-posters .
What was it like to go to the cinema in the 60s in Prague? Do you know if people reacted to posters, if they discussed the art?Yes, definitely. Streets and houses in Czech towns were derelict and gray back then and artistic author posters brought a little color to the streets. It was like a sort of seasonal feast. Every Thursday posters were changed and people were following closely these changes. And the authors did too, as for them it was often the first exit in public as they could not exhibit or sell their creations freely.
What do you think is the mix of factors that has made possible this particular development of artistic film poster design in Czechoslovakia and Poland? What do you think it was different from other countries of the Eastern Bloc?For young Czech artists, there was nothing demeaning about designing a poster; it was not considered a lower form of art because the Czech avant-garde had also designed posters and book covers that were linked to the Russian avant-garde. Well known Czech surrealist artists (Teige, Štýrský, Tøyen) had designed posters too ... and for the young artists in the 60s it was a challenge to try to match their exceptional creations. A similar tradition, but perhaps not as strong, was also in Hungary, Germany etc.
They say (Paul Sahre) the poster has to be about the designer as much as about the client, that the designer who isn't selfish can't do a great job. Do you think in the case of the Czechoslovak film posters was it only about the designer, about his/her artistic vision and less about the film? The situation was quite different than the present one. Back then, the poster was not an advertisement. There was no market. There was no demand for the commercial potential of the poster. Artists had creative freedom and could, for example, leave three-quarters of the poster black, so their artwork would have an impact. Obviously, the best posters are those that add value and convey the message of the film, not just artistic values independently of the film.
Have you met any of the authors of the posters in your collection? Did they tell you any interesting stories about how it was to design a film poster back then? (How much time did they have to finish a project? Where did they find inspiration?)Yes, of course. Many of them no longer live, but some are still around. I know all of them and I recorded hours of interviews that will be used in a book about posters to be published in 2014/15 which will review all that outstanding era of the Czech fine arts.