Wednesday, 7 July 2010



1 May – 1 June 2008

1968 was the year that rocked the world. A time of unparalleled upheaval across the world, the remarkable events of 1968 created a legacy which was to shape a generation. To commemorate the revolutionary spirit of 1968, and to celebrate its own 40th birthday, The Hayward is presenting the first major display in the UK of posters produced by French students and workers during the strikes of May 1968 in Paris.

These posters comprise some of the most brilliant graphic works ever to have been associated with a movement for social and political change. Produced anonymously by art students and striking workers, the posters were distributed for free, their bold graphic messages appearing on the barricades, carried in demonstrations and plastered on walls across France. The exhibition will include 46 posters drawn from the collection of the American writer and curator, Johan Kugelberg.

On New Year’s Eve 1967 the French president, Charles de Gaulle, broadcast his annual message to the French public. I greet the year 1968 with serenity…It is impossible to see how France today could be paralysed by crisis as she has been in the past’. Just six months later he was fighting for his political life. Anger and frustration over poverty, unemployment and de Gaulle’s conservative rule gave rise to a mass movement for social change. An unprecedented wave of wild-cat strikes, walkouts and demonstrations by students, followed by a general strike, paralysed the French capital.

On 16 May students and faculty spontaneously took over the Ecole des Beaux Arts to form the Atelier Populaire (Popular Workshop), producing hundreds of silk screened posters in an extraordinary outpouring of political graphic art. In a statement, the Atelier Populaire declared the posters weapons in the service of the struggle and are an inseparable part of it. Their rightful place is in the centres of conflict, that is to say, in the streets and on the walls of the factories’. Created using bold colours on white backgrounds, these posters combined imagery with slogans to provocative effect: A green tank sits beneath the slogan ‘Light wages – Heavy Tanks’; de Gaulle appears with a Hitler moustache; and a beautifully stylised flock of sheep are accompanied by the phrase ‘return to normal’.

The exhibition is organised by Johan Kugelberg in collaboration with Ralph Rugoff, Director of The Hayward, Caroline Hancock, Curator, The Hayward, and Jeff Boardman, Creative Director of Freewheelin’. It is supported by Converse.


Interview about May '68 with Johan Kugelberg at

Exhibition review at

Daily Telegraph exhibition review