Anyone who can get to the Hayward Gallery on London’s South Bank should visit the 40th anniversary exhibition of the posters and photos of the Atelier Populaire (Popular Workshop) from the May 1968 uprising in France.
These examples of art produced for the street and the factory in the service of mass revolt and revolutionary change were incredibly inspiring for me, and for many whose lives were changed by “Mai 68”.
This exhibition displays only a sample of the amazing graphic images and slogans produced by the Atelier Populaire and stuck up around Paris on a daily basis during the heat of struggle.
But it still manages to communicate a powerful sense of France in total upheaval – a time when a fearful president Charles de Gaulle fled to Germany and ten million French workers went on general strike on 20 May.
However – be prepared to be sickened by a visit to the gallery shop for examples of this work. Each poster has been “artistically recreated” and are yours at £50 each.
My copy of all the Atelier Populaire posters, bought at the time, cost £1.
In the preface the students and teachers of Paris’s École des Beaux-Arts, together with the workers who helped to produce the posters, say they are “weapons in the service of the struggle”.
They add that “their rightful place is in centres of conflict, that is to say, in the streets and on the walls of the factories... This is why the Atelier Populaire has always refused to put them on sale.”
This exhibition brings alive the potential created by a movement that united students and workers of all nationalities in a common struggle for revolutionary change.
May 68 – Street Posters from the Paris Rebellion
The Hayward Project Space, Southbank Centre, London
Until 1 June