The poster became one of the leading ways to disseminate information and a popular type of pictorial media throughout the world in the 19th century.
Ranging from works by Toulouse-Lautrec to posters used by the Italian fashion brand Benetton as a marketing tool in the 1990s, many of the most recognisable images from their respective periods stem from posters. Most posters are more rare than one would initially assume, as once they are posted on a wall, they are covered with other print material or painted over ten days later, and thus the posters are lost to posterity. Above all, a poster collection needs to be established in order to preserve what would otherwise be lost. In addition, a poster collection has responsibilities which lie in the selection and the recognition of particularly successful examples in order to reflect the history of the the medium.
The Poster Collection maintained by the MKG is – even by international standards – one of the oldest and most important collections of its kind. The museum’s founder Justus Brinckmann (1843-1915) actively observed the cultural developments of his time and was eager to integrate contemporary phenomena into his new museum. The first posters that were collected are from the 1880s. Since 1892, the MKG has held poster exhibitions regularly. With the onset of World War I, early artistic posters and product advertisements, which even held great artistic value in the early 20th century, were complemented with political posters of the time. These three emphases have been built upon ever since.
Many designers support the MKG’s collection and often present their respective portfolios. This has resulted in a thematically diverse collection with an international direction. In terms of cultural and art history, the museum has paid equal interest to both aspects in regard to this particular collection.