John Melin – Moderna Museet Posters

John Melin – Moderna Museet Posters

When my partner and I were travelling around Sweden, roughly ten years ago, we took a trip to Stockholm’s Moderna Museet (Museum of Modern Art). We weren’t really that knowledgable about Swedish design at the time, so were very excited to be introduced to the work of John Melin while we were there. The museum shop had a wonderful book of his work, that I still cherish, titled ‘till Example’, in which I learnt that Melin had become famous, in part, for creating Moderna Museet’s first graphic profile.  

Melin was one of Sweden’s key advertising gurus in the 60s and 70s and whilst creative director of advertising agency Svenska Telegrambyrån in Malmö, he produced much of the Moderna Museet’s collateral alongside his partner Anders Österlin. The ideas were Melin’s, the drawing, Anders Österlin’s, but they worked as a team and were actually called ‘anden’ and ‘handen’ – ‘the spirit and the hand’.

As well as this wonderful book, we picked up a reproduction of one of Melin’s iconic posters for Andy Warhol’s first exhibition outside of the US, which also took place at Moderna Museet in 1968.

The poster was part of a series, which we are very pleased to now be able to have for sale on Counter-Print, and is special for its stark, typographic approach. They neglect to include Warhol’s work at all and instead each contain one of Warhol’s famous quotes, set in one size and using only the typeface Falstaff.

According to Olle Granath, who worked as part of the team to create the exhibition, the idea for the posters came about as part of the editing process for the book of the exhibition. Granath was given a box, ‘almost the size of a Brillo box’, and was told it contained everything written by and about Andy Warhol. Granath’s job was to read it all and present a proposal to the exhibition team for a manuscript for the book.

His manuscript was handed to his colleague Pontus Hultén for approval and all was well apart Hultén’s concern that there was a quotation missing – ‘in the future, everyone will be world-famous for 15 minutes’.

‘If it is in the material I would have spotted it,’ Granath exchanged. The line went quiet for a moment, and then he heard Pontus say, ‘if he didn’t say it, he could very well have said it, let’s put it in.’ And so, according to Granath, Warhol’s perhaps most famous quotation became a fact.

When it was time to make the exhibition posters Granath, Hultén and Melin decided to use the quotations from the proposed manuscript, instead of the customary reproduction of a painting. The museum produced a series of ten posters, each with a different quotation, in the hard-hitting and legible typographic style of Melin at the time.

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