In the span of a quarter century, Publicité Sauvage placarded 40,000 cultural advertising signs on walls: kilometers of posters in varied styles that have refashioned the heart of Montreal day after day, spreading it in a vibrant graphic urban horizon. The posters are the voices of artists, whether underground or not. They stand as extraordinary testaments of the cultural and social life of Montreal, they show-case a wide array of ideas, from the big-bang creative moment in the ‘80s all the way till now. To celebrate 25 (and a half!) years of life, Publicité Sauvage has decided to showcase their most memorable posters across 15 emblematic places.

Audacity and Liberty

Publicité Sauvage was born out of action and passion: that of Beaudouin Wart, a visual and sound artist, arduous defender of a community often forgotten in the shadows due to a lack of means to get noticed. “In the ‘80s,” says Wart, “Montreal was undergoing a recession and many artists were having trouble attracting crowds to shows. I was 20-years-old and I decided to help out my friends, like Marie Chouinard, by putting up posters for their shows across all four corners of the city.”

Armed with a long brush, a pot of glue and an enormous pile of posters under his arm, the young Wart braved the cold and evaded the vigilant police officers who fight an ardent war on wild placarding! Therein he started, without knowing it, his first campaign of urban poster-pasting. “Posters are often the first line of contact between creative works and the public. It’s quite an art to successfully capture the attention of a passerby, and even more to attract them into a room,” says Isabelle Jalbert, general director of Publicité Sauvage.

In the beginning, poster campaigns were very ephemeral and lasted sometimes only one hour. Competing clans were fighting a war of attention; they held no mercy for clashing shows and would recklessly tear down competing posters. Little by little, the clans started to disappear and in 1994 Publicité Sauvage managed to legalize cultural displaying thanks to the support of a large artistic community.

15 Unseen Expositions and One Book

The direction of the exposition was realized under the responsibility of Marc H. Choko. A graphic design professor at UQAM that is impassioned by posters, Choko selected 700 posters that were categorized by theme and sub-themes according to the place where the poster will be shown. We find, for example, posters of cinema at the Cinémathèque québécoise; those for the circus at Tohu; and those of theatre, opera, music and dance at Place des Arts. Each Publicité Sauvage location will showcase 48 prints of posters made of the finest of graphic material. “A good poster, one that is destined to be plastered in the city, is neither a slogan nor a pretty image. Rather, it’s a subtle dose between appeal, clear message, synthesized image and text, and a mix of esthetic qualities, of composition and placement on the page,” says Choko.

The stunning book, titled Publicité Sauvage, presents the vivacity and creativity that persists in posters across Quebec, like its own mode of communication. It also sheds light on the importance of the economic, social and urban contexts that set the stage for this art that is so anchored in public space and the collective consciousness. A poster in the city is like an open window into the living world of creativity… .

For dates and locations of expositions:

The book: Publicité Sauvage: 25 years and a half, compiled by Marc Choko.

— Emmanuelle Vieira


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Ewa Bili

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