Vintage Italian Posters on Display in NYC’s SoHo

Exquisite design is found in only one place in Italy- everywhere. Even on billboards and in shop windows. A glamorously painted figure sipping an Illy brand coffee. A happy home-cook beaming at her dish garnished with peanuts, selling the nuts (or her infectious smile?). In the first half of the 20th century, the tone of Italian brand advertising was a mix of “avant-garde art and commercial.” The visually stunning posters, an impressive tribute to Italian artists of the last century, are more at home on an art gallery wall than a supermarket display. 

The Center for Italian Modern Art (CIMA) in New York City’s SoHo has done just that with their show entitled “From Depero to Rotella: Italian Commercial Posters Between Advertising and Art” which spans 30 years of Italian commercial history. This epoch, according to Executive Director Nicola Lucchi covers “the years of the fascist regime in the 1920s and 1930s, the years of World War 2, and the early years of Italy as a democratic republic, characterized by a post-war economic boom and an ever-growing consumerism.”

Until June 10th, 2023, posters from Italian brands such as Fiat, Barilla and Pirelli offer a glimpse into the designs of Italian artists of the last century. Lucchi says “Today we may not associate these brands with avant-garde aesthetics, but at various points in their history these companies developed a very productive dialogue with artists and intellectuals, and it’s fascinating for me to observe that such a dialogue was once possible.” These are after all the brands that molded Italian culture in the post-war years, the companies that contributed to Italy’s economic boom. 

Since 2013, CIMA has presented Italian contemporary and modern art on an international stage. A visit to their space starts with a free coffee- espresso of course- and conversation with one of their available scholars. In addition to the sleekly curated exhibit spanning 30 years of Italian commercial culture, lectures, concerts and screenings will also be held. 

Center for Italian Modern Art
421 Broome Street, 4th floor
New York, NY 10013
(646) 370 3596

The exhibit is open to the public until June 10, 2023. Open Fridays with guided tours at 11, 2 and 6 p.m. and Saturdays from 11 am to 6 pm. 

–Danielle Abbazia

Photo Courtesy Center for Italian Modern ArtPhoto by Dario Lasagni © 2023 Dario Lasagni