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Mike Tyler- Why I started collecting solidarity posters

25 January 2017 by Sarah

Tricontinental Conference – 3rd Anniversary, 1969 by Alfredo Juan Gonzalez Rostgaard. Copyright: Courtesy Lincoln Cushing and Docs Populi Archive.

Mike Tyler is the architect and collector who owns the fantastic array of 32 posters currently on display in our Art of Solidarity exhibition. We asked Mike how and why he started collecting these Cuban posters, designed to support freedom movements around the world:    

“I’m often asked why I started collecting Cuban posters and the truth is, it kind of just happened. As a visual person I’m drawn to design, graphics, photography, street art etc, so when I first stumbled across a batch of these posters, I could see they were something special. 

Having bought them on a whim I set about learning more, searching online for anything I could find and contacting museums, art galleries, universities, as well as eBay dealers. After months of dead ends, frustration and general confusion, I finally made contact with a couple of private collectors.  Each offered a few leads and were very knowledgeable having been collecting for years.  What started as a bit of ‘googling’ became more like a passion.

As the collection grew, my interest evolved beyond purely aesthetics to wanting to know more about the events and people depicted. Feeling much like the character Marlow in Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness I began my journey through the Cold War era with its revolutions, assassinations, paranoia and proxy wars.  I found the more you learn about the historical context the more the posters reveal hidden symbolism and imagery. It also gave me an insight into many of the conflicts that continue to plague regions of the world today.

Day of Solidarity with the People of Mozambique, 1969 by Jesús Forjáns Boade. Copyright: Courtesy Lincoln Cushing and Docs Populi Archive.

Perhaps the most surprising thing is what these posters have taught me about myself.  I grew up in the peaceful seclusion of suburban Sydney, blissfully ignorant and literally half a world away from the conflicts they depict – yet my life has been shaped by the wider themes they represent.

My grandfather was born in London and emigrated to Sydney to start a new life, which included creating my mother. My father is American and met my mother whilst on R&R from serving in Vietnam. Had it not been for the British Empire and possibly the most iconic conflict of the Cold War era I simply would not exist. Thanks to my mixed heritage I’ve been able to travel, experience different cultures, and meet my English wife. In short I have benefited greatly from colonialism and the politics that maintain it – but thanks to these posters I now appreciate there is a flip-side which is not so pleasant. That is, after all, what the artists intended.”

Don’t miss the free talk on our Art of Solidarity exhibition, coming up on 28 January at the International Slavery Museum. And you can also see our series of free events planned throughout the Art of Solidarity exhibition.

  1. zach khwaja says:

    what i have looked at is AMAZING!!!!!
    zach aged 7yr old

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