Three Interwar Poster Artists: Janković, Petrov, Babić
Exhibition will be opened by Irina Subotić, art historian
Exhibition curator: Bojana Popović, museum advisor at the Museum of Applied Art
Organised by: Museum of Applied Art
In the period between the two world wars, graphic design became a significant factor in creating contemporary applied art. Thanks to the wide range of its activities (design and illustration of all types of publications, design of letters, logos, signs, charters, diplomas, greeting cards, invitations, stamps, banknotes, securities, memoranda, packaging, advertisements, posters, etc.), it influenced the creation of visual codes of the broadest social strata’s everyday life. The same happened in the capital of the newly established Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes/Yugoslavia, which was hastily changing following the modernisation processes that marked those two turbulent decades between the world war catastrophes at a global level. However, unlike the foreign one, the Serbian graphic design of the time is insufficiently known and researched. Both the fragility and perishability of the printed copies, and their ephemeral purpose, which for a long time excluded the need to keep and collect them, contributed to this. The Museum of Applied Art’s collections opened their doors to such works in the middle of the 1970s. All this was in line with the contemporary perception of the graphic design itself and with the general museological trends interested in the art of the first half of the century. Coincidentally, the legacies of Dušan Janković (being received by the Museum since 1974), Miloš Babić (received by the Museum in 1979) and Mihailo S. Petrov (received by the Museum in 1984) were offered to the Museum either as a gift or to be purchased by it. These pieces pointed out the fact that the three all-round artists are of exceptional importance for the history of Serbian graphic design.
Like in economically developed societies, where it had already been formed, a group of professional graphic designers began also emerging in Belgrade in the early 1920s, in parallel with the country’s economic development and the strengthening of consumerism. The graphic designers belonging to the mentioned group most often worked as associates of advertising agencies. Nevertheless, it is their names, as well as their works, that are least known to us. “The case” of Miloš Babić is an exception, thanks to the fact that, being aware of their importance, Babić preserved his most important works despite the war destruction and personal troubles. Most of these works are posters, which, along with newspaper ads, were the most important medium of graphic market communications. Prominent sculptors, painters and graphic artists, such as Sreten Stojanović, Đorđe Andrejević Kun and Ivo Šeremet, also created posters occasionally, most often those intended for cultural events. However, for Dušan Janković and Mihailo S. Petrov, poster design (and graphic design in general) was much more than a sporadic activity – they were successfully and equally engaged in it as they were engaged in other disciplines during their decades-long versatile artistic careers. In their best pieces, their poster designs, as well as Babić’s, represent the climax of the pioneering phase of this medium in Serbia. According to their fine art achievements, iconography and stylistic features, they also belong to the quality European interwar poster corpus. Janković, Petrov, and Babić spoke the same creative language as their fellow artists in Paris, London, Berlin, Vienna, Budapest, Krakow…, regardless of whether they used the international vocabularies of either Art Deco or deradicalized avant-garde art movements – those pillars of the 20th-century graphic design.
The exhibition Three Interwar Poster Artists: Janković, Petrov, Babić displays about sixty draft posters and/or their printed copies belonging to the Museum of Applied Art’s collections. They are classified by themes (into exhibition, sports, socially-engaged, film, and commercial posters) with the aim of emphasising not only the specific nature of the authors’ works, but also the features common for the three of them as well as for the spirit of the era.