Collector Gives Denver Museum Psychedelic Poster Stash
By Patrick Cole
March 10 (Bloomberg) -- David Tippit thought his obsession with
psychedelic posters from the 1960s era of sex, drugs and rock 'n'
roll was a personal quirk. Then he learned the Denver Art Museum in
Colorado shared his fascination.
Tippit, a 59-year-old former cellular biologist who lives in nearby
Boulder, has donated a portion of his 875 first- edition poster
collection to the museum and sold the rest to the nonprofit.
The posters, with their vibrant colors and hallucinatory
illustrations, were commissioned by rock-concert promoters such as
Chet Helms and Bill Graham to advertise concerts by the Grateful
Dead, Jefferson Airplane, Janis Joplin and other acts at venues
across the country in the '60s and '70s.
The museum declined to say what it paid, spokeswoman Kristy Bassuener
said in a phone interview. Museum officials and Tippit declined to
break down the number of posters given and those purchased. Eric
King, a poster-art consultant who was hired by the museum to appraise
the collection, said in an interview that it is worth $1.2 million.
Tippit said he collected the posters for about 20 years because they
were affordable, not because he's a fan of the generation's music.
``I couldn't collect French impressionist paintings, so I was looking
for an area that was undiscovered,'' he said in a phone interview.
``I thought these things should be in a museum one day.''
The museum agrees. The posters are historically important because
they capture the radical social changes of the time -- antiwar
sentiment, sexual freedom, women's rights and environmental activism,
said Darrin Alfred, the museum's assistant curator of graphic design.
Poster art also marks a movement ``from modernism to more expressive
forms,'' Alfred said in a phone interview. ``Tippit's collection was
like nothing I had ever seen before in quality and scale.''
The museum plans to exhibit the collection as early as 2009.
Among the posters are those from Family Dog Productions that promoted
Bo Diddley, Big Brother and the Holding Company and other acts at the
Avalon Ballroom in San Francisco from 1965 to 1970 and first-edition
prints of Led Zeppelin and Muddy Waters concerts that Graham promoted
from 1966 to 1970.
Tippit's collecting binge was piqued in the early 1980s when he
wandered into a comic-book store in the former hippie haven of
Haight-Ashbury in San Francisco. He spotted a colorful poster for a
concert by the Chambers Brothers, a 1960s soul group. He paid $100
and was hooked.
Plastered on Poles
``People would go to these events, but who thought of saving these
things?'' said consultant King, author of ``The Collector's Guide to
Psychedelic Rock Concert Posters, Postcards and Handbills, 1965-1973.''
Today, some of these posters sell for $100 while others go for
$12,000 to $25,000 on the high end, he said.
Tippit amassed a collection of offset lithographs by Victor Moscoso,
one of the leading poster makers in the 1960s. Copies of his work
were plastered on telephone poles and in other public areas.
``There was an acceptance of our work on the street, not by art
museums,'' Moscoso said in a phone interview. ``Every utility pole,
every storefront was our display. We didn't need the art critics
because we bypassed them, and I don't think they liked that.''
Collecting runs in Tippit's family. His uncle, industrialist and
philanthropist A. Reynolds Morse, who died in 2000, spent 40 years
collecting the art of his friend Salvador Dali and gave the works to
the Salvador Dali Museum in St. Petersburg, Florida.
Tippit said he now collects first-edition photography books.
``I'm not going to ever do that again,'' Tippit said of poster
collecting. ``It's just too much work.''
To contact the reporter on this story: Patrick Cole in New York at