For many years, I pressed my nose against windows displaying spectacular posters from all eras and countries at the Chisholm Larsson poster gallery, on Eighth Avenue at West 17th Street in the arty heart of Chelsea.
Alas, I believed these beckoning works of art were too pricey. I recently stared at a huge portrait of Arlo Guthrie on a masterpiece of an Italian movie poster for his iconic film Alice’s Restaurant. This poster of Woody Guthrie’s son brings a rush of fond feelings. I tailed Arlo touring Ohio and Pennsylvania when Alice’s Restaurant made him the singing star of the anti-war movement.
I was researching my first article for the New York Times Magazine—and no, I didn’t write that I smoked opium with Arlo (and time rushed but stood still like it does during acupuncture). Nor did I write that I declined Arlo’s sweet pass. He said, “Hey I been wantin’ to find me a Cancer chick.” Nor did I write that Alice herself was a cheerful lush. She took me to a party where the movie’s producer made an entrance dressed in full 18th-century armor, and Alice got drunk and fell giggling over the back of a sofa with her strong legs in the air.
Back to the Chisholm Larsson gallery—and my own giddy pleasure making friends with its warm, welcoming owner, Robert Chisholm. (Unlike Alice, he didn’t know I was going to write about his spellbinding store.)
I immediately discovered I’d been totally wrong about prices. Many incredible posters make you feel blessed by beauty and sell for less than $200. Chisholm displays posters like a high-end Parisian art gallery.
The enchanting and huge (79-by-55-inches) 30-year-old poster of long-haired Arlo wearing a top hat costs only $550. I figured the rare, archival piece for well over $3,000. It would transform any room into a totally hip New York space.
I discovered that I really like gallery owner Robert Chisholm and could spend days listening as he adroitly flips through magnificent and rare posters by artists like Milton Glazer (“a really sweet man,” says Chisholm). Glazer’s lush poster for the New York Spring Flower Festival ($240) features a beautiful woman with flowers for hair. Chisholm really loves the classic Spanish design of a poster for an Almodovar movie Matador, starring Antonio Banderas (“a cross between Cocteau and Picasso”). I love a drop-dead gorgeous poster ($160) of a hoop-skirted lady and two tots feeding swans in Central Park circa 1875.
One Italian poster for Andy Warhol’s movie Heat or Calore ($500) features my neighbor and friend Sylvia Miles as a young woman, lushly bosomed and open-mouthed.
Chisholm and his partner, Lars Larsson, have been selling great vintage poster art for three decades and have 45,000 posters on their website. The Japanese are snatching up Polish posters (still reasonably priced) because of the clean graphics.
If you want to beat out the Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery, grab the Italian poster ($700) for Easy Rider depicting a magnificent Jack Nicholson. Or snatch another poster (circa 1968) from the National Portrait Gallery featuring Lyndon Johnson and Lady Bird as rifle-toting Bonnie and Clyde. Check out the gallery website (www.chisholm-poster.com) and prepare to be enchanted.
Susan Braudy is the author and journalist whose last book, Family Circle: The Boudins and the Aristocracy of the Left, was nominated for a Pulitzer by publisher Alfred Knopf.
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