Graphic Gift

Cuba: Enjoy Life, Avoid AIDS, date unknown, design: Idania/David, 18.2 by 26 inches. Translation: “Enjoy Life, Avoid AIDS. How do I Show that I Love You”

The Wolfsonian–Florida International University (FIU) in Miami Beach, Florida, is the recipient of a recent donation of over 3,600 AIDS-themed posters created between 1985 and 2010. Amassed from over eighty countries, including Australia, Zimbabwe, Cuba, India, and the United States, the significant collection of posters will enhance The Wolfsonian’s growing holdings on health and hygiene. The collection, generously gifted by philanthropist Henry S. Hacker, was assembled over the course of several years by James Lapides of the International Poster Gallery in Boston. Lapides had acquired a substantial portion of the collection in 1999 from a private European collector.

Throughout HIV’s rampaging thirty-year history, the poster has played a special role in conveying information about the virus. The posters in this gifted collection are extremely diverse. Different aims, messages, visual metaphors, and strategies have strongly influenced the content and design of the posters. Originating from countries as varied as Papua New Guinea and Denmark, the posters provide a fascinating overview of the wide-ranging visual and messaging strategies employed in response to HIV/AIDS.

“This collection not only demonstrates the role design plays—and in this case poster design—in public health campaigns, but it also connects to the history of our world, community, times, as well as research interests at our university,” notes Wolfsonian director Cathy Leff. “We are grateful for Jim’s commitment to this collection and humbled by this incredible gift from Henry Hacker.”

Hacker, a newly appointed Wolfsonian Advisory Board member, has had a special interest in the relationships between commerce, art, mass media and consumption his entire life. Coming from a medical family, he feels that HIV/AIDS has left, and continues to leave, a brutal legacy on our society. “In terms of the social history of the twentieth century, the AIDS pandemic is extremely significant in relationship to not only loss but to civil liberties and human rights.”

As an influential and highly successful business leader, Hacker’s career has included directing the design, marketing, and management functions of brands and licensees as both a private-practice business lawyer and a corporate executive. He earned a B.A. from Yale University, a J.D. from Cornell University, and is currently a candidate for a Master’s degree in liberal arts in museum studies at Harvard Extension School. “What I hope is that ultimately AIDS, like the other great plagues, will soon become part of the rear view of history.”

Celebrating this major gift from Henry S. Hacker, The Wolfsonian–FIU is the latest host to the touring exhibition Graphic Intervention: 25 Years of International AIDS Awareness Posters 1985–2010 [A&U, December 2011], which includes a majority of the posters in Hacker’s sizeable gift. The exhibition opens in Miami Beach’s Art Deco District on May 11 and will be on view through September 9, 2012. Graphic Intervention explores the role the poster has played in global efforts to prevent HIV/AIDS and in promoting awareness and safe sex education.
—Sean Black

For more information, log on to and