The Cooper Union (41 Cooper Sq., Manhattan)
Exhibition dates: November 1-December 3, 2011
The establishment of the pharmaceutical industry, especially in the mid-20th century, played a significant role in the evolution of graphic design and advertising. Herb Lubalin created some of his most influential work while working for Sudler & Hennessey, an advertising agency which specialized in pharmaceutical marketing. PHARMA features a diverse array of original ephemera, rarely seen publicly, by many pioneering graphic designers including Lester Beall, Will Burtin, Paul Rand, Franco Grignani, staff of Geigy, Fred Troller, and Herb Lubalin, as well as contributions by Carl Fischer, Jerome Snyder and Andy Warhol.
PHARMA will exhibit such themes as: emergence of avant-garde promotionals due to the proliferation of new miracle drugs, like Penicillin; the evolution of pharmaceutical marketing and the agencies that serviced the industry; the establishment of the FDA and regulation of drug marketing; how drug aesthetic’s pervasiveness prompts spoofs, is source material for artists, and allows for a new niche of products such as “cosmeceuticals”.
The exhibition highlights a defining change, as the marketing of brand name drugs to the consumer marked a paradigm shift in medicine away from physicians and into the hands of pliable public opinion. The actions of the pharmaceutical industry reflect both a reactive response to increased government regulation and a proactive attention to the demands of American consumerism.
While PHARMA provides examples of past and present, the public is encouraged to reflect and question the role of graphic design in the marketing of drugs, how that has changed over the years and, more importantly, why.