Bring Picasso, Karel Appel and Michael Jackson to millions of living rooms

If there had been a Nobel Prize for spreading culture, Engel Verkerke, who died Thursday at the age of 97, would be a serious candidate. The poster, as one of its titles was launched, provided art to millions of families around the world as a publisher of affordable prints and posters. While painting copies cost 25 to 50 guilders (then the price of a new bike), Verkerke began publishing large numbers of prints and posters in the late 1950s. They offered for sale for 4.50 guilders, as consumables that could be exchanged after a while.

liberation of the church, c. 1969. Verkerke’s successful 1970s poster of a nun with a portrait of Che Guevara (Photo Riehl, 1969).

Bob Torsak pictures


Copies of paintings by Picasso, Toulouse-Lautrec and Karel Appel decorated the living rooms. In teen rooms, Jimi Hendrix and Michael Jackson hung on the wall. Posters of the anarchist protest movement Provo, and the red and black portrait of Cuban guerrilla fighter Che Guevara and “Easy Rider” Peter Fonda, were hung on his helicopter with hand nails or duct tape in student rooms. In the 1970s, Verkerke managed to find a huge audience for nude teenage girls for British fashion photographer David Hamilton.

Former communist Verkerke described “Art for the People” as his mission. In addition to making a lot of money, of course, you know. a lot of money.”

the truth

Engel Philippus Verkerke was born in 1924, the son of a metalworker in Rotterdam. He started as a journalist for the former Resistance newspaper the truthwho worked at the communist Pegasus Library in Amsterdam, but lost faith in Marxist ideals after the Hungarian uprising in 1956. “What I thought was the most humane system,” he later said in the paper. General Trade Journal.

Verkerke made a fresh start as an employee of a wholesaler of school supplies. When school administrators requested alternative wall decorations and his boss saw nothing of his plan to publish prints, Verkerke founded Reproductions in 1957. His first print, an ink drawing of a galloping horse by Chinese artist Xu Beihong, was in high demand.

Read also: Engel Verkerk Stickers: Always Something Wrong

With his wife, Verkerke worked for fifteen-hour years, also on weekends. In 1963, he was able to hire his first employee, and the following year the second year. By 1978, the company had grown into the European market leader, with 350 employees spread across eight countries and its own stores in the Netherlands. Verkerke Reproductions sends 20 million Ede posters annually to over a hundred countries. Verkerke explained that television raised us to be viewers, about the prosperity of his company. This summer, the Den Bosch Design Museum is dedicating an exhibition of the significance of Verkerke posters, which can be seen until October 2.

Angel Verkerke in 2013.
Photo by Chris Bennaerts

luck

Verkerke was adept at obtaining reproduction rights. He traveled a lot, invited celebrities if necessary, and dared to invest heavily in copyright. Sometimes he was lucky, too. When he negotiated with the agent of the popular British pop group Duran Duran in the early 1980s, he had to take over the label rights to three then-unknown artists. Their names: Madonna, Whitney Houston, and George Michael.

In 1987, Mundadori, the publishing group of major shareholder Silvio Berlusconi, bought Verkerke Repoductions. A few years later, the Italians sold the company to Hallmark, a billion-dollar American greeting card company.

Verkerke was satisfied with the new owners, he said in a radio interview with Ischa Meijer in 1989. When asked why he had remained in the manager position for years after the acquisitions, he replied, “There is only one Engel Verkerke.” He explained to Major that the publication had to contain something naughty. How did the selection process go? One Monday morning, Verkerke said, he asked his worker if she had actually danced to a lambada. When the woman replied that she thought the sensual Brazilian dance was too sloppy, Verkerke knew enough: “The lambada poster was of a high quality.” After that it was just a matter of finding the right pictures.

Verkerke was a talented narrator, with a repertoire of tales that he honed during his frequent visits to the café. At the request of Meijer, he told listeners of VPRO – a story from another era.

the first “gay poster” From 1969.
Jean Paul Froome’s photo

At the Frankfurt Book Fair, where Verkerke sold his posters every year, he met a German translator with particularly beautiful breasts in a Japanese booth, Childhood Dream. Standing out on his own, Verkerke told Meijer, he couldn’t resist the temptation to grab the woman by her breasts on the shop floor.

According to the poster pope, the woman pretended that nothing had happened and started a good conversation. Verkerke: “I keep telling her, ‘Das tue ich fast niemals und auch nicht wieder.’ With each new visit to the gallery, according to Verkerke, he would go visit the woman to shake hands with her.

Verkerke told this (made-up?) story with the timing of the conference, without giving up his role. Meanwhile, Major shouted, just like the pub crowd attending the radio recording.

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