Man Ray’s iconic London Underground poster will star in Swann Auction Galleries’ May 3 Graphic Design auction in New York.
The design features the iconic Underground roundel symbol alongside a planet and the words “Keeps London Going”. It’s executed in Man Ray’s signature “Rayographic” style.
Another example set a record of £50,400 ($71,550) for an Underground poster in a 2007 sale. However, with an estimate of $80,000-120,000 this specimen looks poised to eclipse it by a considerable margin.
London Underground has a long history of working with contemporary artists on its advertising campaigns. That’s largely thanks to Frank Pick, the first head of the London Passenger Transport Board. Pick was fascinated by design. He commissioned the iconic logo, map and typeface as well as the distinctive look of the network’s many stations.
Modern art tied in with the sense of forward motion that Pick wanted the public to associate with the Tube.
Viennese Secessionist posters are well represented, with Alfred Roller’s three-colour masterpiece for the 14th exhibition of the Viennese Secession (1902) valued at $30,000-40,000.
The Secessionists were a group of artists who left the Association of Austrian Artists in 1897 in protest at the organisation’s conservatism. Among their number were figures like Gustav Klimt and Josef Hoffmann, who would later become household names.
Another of Roller’s exhibition posters (this one for the 16th exhibition in 1903) sold for £42,300 ($59,984) at Christie’s in 2000, more than double its £20,000 ($28,361) estimate. The example offered by Swann could easily achieve a similar result.