New exhibit of vintage travel posters shows how NYC was sold to the world

March 7, 2024

A new exhibition at Poster House illustrates how the term “Wonder City” became synonymous with New York City. Curated by Nicholas D. Lowry, “Wonder City of the World: New York City Travel Posters” features 80 posters promoting the five boroughs to tourists, immigrants, and travelers during the 20th century through enticing design and portrayal of iconic landmarks. The exhibition will be on view at Poster House at 119 West 23rd Street from March 14 through September 8.

The term “Wonder City” was coined through a 19th-century marketing campaign seen in newspapers, magazines, articles, postcards, and souvenir booklets. Due to NYC’s exponential growth at the time, more travel posters were designed to promote New York than for any other city in the world.

The exhibition is a visual experience highlighting the way artists encapsulated the rich culture of New York by displaying its most famous landmarks and the “hustle and bustle” while also providing a glimpse into the intimate, everyday moments of New Yorkers. The evolution of design and message during the various eras throughout the 20th century is fully on display.

Artists featured in the exhibition include Charles Edward Chambers, Adolph Treidler, Joseph Binder, Sascha Maurer, Edward McKnight Kauffer, Donald Brun, Tomoko Miho Henri Ott, and more.

To celebrate the exhibition, Poster House is releasing an art book highlighting many of the travel posters featured in “Wonder City of the World.” The book also includes essays by Lowry and other design experts that tell the story of how the allure of NYC was marketed to the world through graphic design.

Wonder City of the World” is supported in part by public funding from the NYC Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council, and the New York State Council on the Arts (NYSCA). 

In addition to “Wonder City,” Poster House will also open “The Anatomy of a Movie Poster: The Work of Dawn Baillie,” which includes 34 posters designed by Dawn Baillie throughout her 40-year career. Some of the works on display include posters for movies like “Dirty Dancing,” “Silence of the Lambs,” and “Little Miss Sunshine.”


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