Lost Treasures of Revolution: The Graphics of Solidarity 1980-89

Lost Treasures of Revolution: The Graphics of Solidarity 1980-89

22 September 2021 – 8 October 2021

The Barn Gallery, St John’s College, University of Oxford, Oxford

Free Admission


Solidarity was one of the biggest social movements of the 20th century. As the leading political force opposing communism in Poland during the 1980s, it paved the way for a peaceful transition to democracy in 1989. This exhibition explores the role that graphics played in building the movement and sustaining it during the difficult days of government repression and martial law. From its iconic logo to spontaneous poster designs and underground ephemera, Solidarity’s printed graphics created a rich visual culture of resistance that spoke to people from all walks of society. By getting involved in making and circulating these items, often at great personal risk, many ordinary people participated in the collective and transformative work of opposition.

‘Lost Treasures of Revolution’ brings together 25 Solidarity poster designs reproduced from the collection of the Victoria and Albert Museum alongside a selection of original badges and rarely seen underground stamps that bear witness to the grassroots creative spirit of the movement in the 1980s. The exhibition concludes with a separate display of posters and graphics from current global social movements and community projects important from the English-speaking countries’ perspective. These prompt us to consider what graphic design can do in our time to build movements and foster participation and political dialogue.

Catherine Flood, the exhibition curator, says “As well as famous poster designs, we are delighted to be showing a collection of underground postage stamps and graphic ephemera that provide vivid evidence of Solidarity’s multi-dimensional appeal in the 1980s. Most of these items were produced at a grassroots community level on small underground presses by designers and ordinary citizens working with few resources to create a new democratic beginning. As issues of social inequality and alienation are thrown into sharp relief by the pandemic, it is timely to reflect on the means by which social movements can bring people together through collective action.”

The exhibition is a part of the Annual Conference of the Centre for the Resolution of Intractable Conflict (CRIC) held each year at Harris Manchester College, University of Oxford.  This year, from 20th to 22nd September 2021, in addition to research reports from CRIC members, the conference will explore the post-pandemic world through the lens of ‘Solidarity’.  Speaking about the event, the Director of CRIC, Lord Alderdice said: ‘We all look forward to a post-pandemic world, albeit one where we will still have to cope with the virus for the foreseeable future. The Black Death in the 14th century resulted in the end of the feudal system. Will the COVID pandemic bring about a radical resetting of life and societies around the world?  Just over forty years ago, the formation of the Solidarność trade union in Poland heralded major societal and geopolitical change not only in Poland but around the world, including the Peace Processes in South Africa, Israel/Palestine, and Northern Ireland.  Under our conference theme – Beyond COVID – Solidarity or Fragmentation we will explore what can we learn from past events about the processes of major societal change as well as what we may expect is possible post-COVID?”. 

The exhibition has been organised in partnership with the Centre for Democracy and Peace Building and St John’s College, University of Oxford.

Learn more HERE.