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Produced by Dorian Hannaway and Amsel's alma mater, the University of the Arts in Philadelphia, this 2009 tribute exhibition remains the most thorough and comprehensive public showcase of the artist's work. I volunteered my help in setting up this event, and it was the first time I was able to meet Amsel's surviving family. I'll be forever grateful for this experience.



'Richard Amsel: A Retrospective' at Rosenwald-Wolf Gallery

Native Philadelphian and university alumnus created “Raiders of the Lost Ark” and many other movie posters


PHILADELPHIA (February 13, 2009) – To mark the acquisition of the more than 500-piece collection of illustrations and sketches of alumnus Richard Amsel, The University of the Arts will present "Richard Amsel: A Retrospective” at its Rosenwald-Wolf Gallery (333 S. Broad St., Philadelphia) from April 15 – May 14.


The exhibition showcases more than 50 works from the world’s largest collection of Amsel sketches and illustrations. The show includes preliminary studies for “Raiders of the Lost Ark” and “Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome” movie posters; Bette Midler album covers and posters; TV Guide cover portraits of Elvis Presley, Lucille Ball, Johnny Carson and Katharine Hepburn, and never-before exhibited or published sketches providing a glimpse into Amsel’s process – from initial sketches through finished art. The exhibition and catalogue have been made possible by a grant from the Richard C. von Hess Foundation.


A 1969 graduate of the Philadelphia College of Art (now The University of the Arts), Amsel created some of the most recognizable, iconic show business-related imagery of the late 20th century before he died in 1985. His “AMSEL” signature can be found on posters for more than 30 major motion pictures, close to 40 TV Guide cover illustrations and numerous album covers and concert posters.


A close friend of Amsel’s and the director of Late Night Programming at CBS Television in Los Angeles for 15 years, Dorian Hannaway donated the collection and designated it as a teaching resource for the university.


“I believe University of the Arts students will be inspired by seeing Richard’s original work,” Hannaway said. “My hope is that it will educate future generations of artists. I’m grateful that the university is preserving his art as well as maintaining the legacy of one of its famous alumni.”


Once catalogued and conserved, the collection will be made available to scholars and researchers of illustration, film, television and American pop culture of the 1970s and ’80s. Ultimately, the retrospective will be made available to travel to other universities, libraries and museums.


The staging of the retrospective is a collaborative effort among University of the Arts Museum Studies students and faculty and entertainment business professionals. Joe Stewart of the Emmy Award-winning Shaffner/Stewart team, set designer for “Friends,” “Two and a Half Men” and “Rachael Ray,” designed the multimedia environment housing the exhibit.


The University of the Arts is the nation’s first and only university dedicated to the visual, performing and communication arts. Its 2,300 students are enrolled in undergraduate and graduate programs on its campus in the heart of Philadelphia’s Avenue of the Arts. The institution’s roots as a leader in educating creative individuals date back to 1868.



Promotional flyers.

Flyer designed by David Byrd.



To coincide with the exhibit, The University of the Arts produced a special catalog, which remains the most definitive resource of the artist's work in print. This beautiful, 48-page book features color illustrations of highlights from the exhibit, some of which have never before been published. Also included are personal tributes to Amsel (from such noted celebrities as Bette Midler and Lily Tomlin), biographical information on the artist, and a comprehensive list of all his official movie posters and TV Guide covers.


Quantities are extremely limited. Contact The University of the Arts for more information. (And no, I'm not selling my copies!)

Initial program for the event.

SETTING UP & PREPARATIONS  Monday, April 13th, 2009
OPENING NIGHT RECEPTION  Thursday, April 16th, 2009

ABOVE: David Byrd gave a lecture, "Bombast & Ballyhoo: The Power of the Poster," prior to the opening night reception. It described a general history of the poster as an art form, and also framed Richard Amsel's work in historical and creative context. It proved to be quite moving, especially when Amsel's final poster, for MAD MAX BEYOND THUNDERDOME, appeared; David's voice cracked, and there were few dry eyes in the lecture hall when it was over.


This remains one of my favorite pictures of David. In all the years I've spent researching and chronicling Richard Amsel's art, my friendship with David is the greatest reward. I never would have met him had it not been for this experience.


All original photos in this gallery copyright (c) 2009, 2015 Adam McDaniel.

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