During the late 1990s, vintage ski posters skyrocketed in popularity. Today, desirable examples can sell for tens of thousands of dollars and are often used to enhance the ambience of mountain lodges and ski homes.
Similarly, vintage sailing posters can add character to coastal residences, bringing the ocean theme indoors. However, unlike the acquisition of ski posters, finding vintage advertisements with sailing motifs requires far more patience and tenacity.
“One of the great things about poster collecting is that you can always find something that caters to your interests,” says Nicho Lowry, director of the vintage poster department at New York City’s Swann Auction Galleries.
Even so, Lowry explains that a sailing niche within vintage poster collecting has yet to develop, which means that aspiring collectors – or coastal homeowners simply looking for distinctive wall art – must scour catalogues dedicated to sporting posters, travel posters, even product advertisements to find the occasional sailing-themed art. “Collectors like the hunt,” says Lowry. “They really like searching, but finding sailing posters is going to be difficult.”
Robert Chisholm, owner and founder of Chisholm Larsson Gallery in New York City, concurs. As a solution, he suggests taking a broader approach.
“If you’re open to general sailing posters, you can come up with some very interesting pieces,” he says. “But if you are looking to decorate your home and you only want America’s Cup posters, for instance, you’re going to have a tough time, and you will need to have a lot of patience.”
Sarah Stocking, owner of her eponymous antique poster gallery in San Francisco, discovered this a few years ago when, to coincide with San Francisco’s hosting of the America’s Cup in 2013, she attempted to curate an exhibition of vintage America’s Cup posters.
The only examples she could find – aside from posters for that year’s race – were various pieces from a series promoting the 1987 event in Australia. “If yachting enthusiasts go looking for these posters, they’re going to find virgin territory,” says Lowry. “It’s an uncharted world.”
As for how to judge the quality of a vintage sailing poster – should you happen to find one – Lowry assures that’s a much easier task. “The test,” he says, “is whether or not it makes you smile. Posters were originally created to catch someone’s eye; they were made to be enjoyed. So if your initial reaction to the artwork is enjoyment, it’s probably a good poster.”