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The World Exists To Be Put On A Postcard - Read an Extract

Posted on 06 Feb 2019

The British Museum’s new exhibition 'The World Exists To Be Put On A Postcard' is now open, the first major museum display of artists’ postcards. Discover the stories behind the postcards.

Explore the full collection and their stories with the accompanying book featuring artists Joseph Beuys, Tacita Dean, Yoko Ono and the original invitation to Andy Warhol’s Holy Cow! Silver Clouds!! Holy Cow! exhibition.

Stuart Mills, 'Homage to Wyndham Lewis', 1969 10.0 × 15.0 cm (4 × 6 in.) Postcard published by the artist’s Tarasque Press in Nottingham. Reproduced by permission of the artist’s estate

Postcards are eminently suited to the expression of concrete poetry, where visual and verbal elements coalesce. Stuart Mills founded the Tarasque Press in Nottingham in 1964. One of his earliest assistants was Simon Cutts, with whom he set up the magazine Tarasque and ran the Trent Bookshop. The magazine ceased publication in 1971 and the bookshop went bankrupt the following year. In a pamphlet produced by the University of Warwick for an exhibition about Moschatel Press in 1982, Mills wrote that ‘the Concrete Poetry movement… moved away from the tradition of oral poetry in the belief that the poem was as much object as it was song’.

Henri Chopin, ‘Vibrations’, 1986 10.5 × 15.0 cm (4¼ × 6 in.) Postcard invitation to a private view on 1 February 1986 to solo exhibition ‘Typewriterpoems’ at Edition Hundertmark in Cologne. Reproduced by permission of the artist’s estate

Henri Chopin was a leading figure in sound poetry and concrete poetry, both interests expressed in his design for this invitation postcard. In 1964 Chopin had launched, with the assistance of his wife, the English-born academic Jean Ratcliffe, the review-disc OU/Cinquième Saison, which he co-edited with Brion Gysin and Bernard Heidsieck. Chopin performed some of his concrete poetry the same year at the ICA and contributed to the touring show Fluxshoe, organized by David Mayor and Ken Friedman in 1972. He was based at Ingatestone in Essex from the late 1960s until the death of his wife in 1986, when he returned to France.

Paul Morton, ‘Thatcher Therapy. Dot-to-Dot Puzzle No. 1’, 1984 15.0 × 10.5 cm (6 × 4¼ in.) Postcard published by Leeds Postcards. Reproduced by permission of the artist. Courtesy Leeds Postcards.

The caption reads on the reverse: ‘Thatcher Therapy. Take a broad, black, water-based felt-tip pen and follow the dots until Mrs Thatcher’s face is obliterated. Wipe clean and it’s ready for the next go. In no time at all you’ll be looking forward to starting the day with fresh vigour.’ The illustrator Paul Morton set up Hot Frog Graphics in Yorkshire in the mid-1980s. Leeds Postcards published in 1989 a book of his work, Drawing Conclusions: Political Postcards, in which he described Margaret Thatcher’s live TV appearance in May 1983 to discuss the Belgrano affair as one of the few public occasions when she looked visibly worried about her actions.

Gran Fury, ‘Women Don’t Get AIDS They Just Die From It’, 1991 12.6 × 23.5 cm (5 × 9 3/8 in.) Postcard of two posters in Spanish and English placed in bus shelters as part of Public Service Art, presented by the Public Art Fund. Courtesy the artists

The Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, placed another eighty of these posters in bus shelters throughout the city. Gran Fury was a New York collective of eleven artists. Founded in 1988 largely to deal with the AIDS crisis, it was disbanded in 1996 after the death of key member Mark Simpson. The collective was known for its campaigning slogan ‘We are not making art, we are making war’.

Art & Language, ‘10 Postcards’, 1977 10.5 × 15.0 cm (4¼ × 6 in.) Complete set of ten postcards published by Robert Self in original printed envelope in an edition of 250. Reproduced by permission of the artists

The cooperative Art & Language became known for the magazine called Art-Language, which they began to publish in 1969. Instrumental in establishing in Britain the word as a work of art, Art & Language had a solo exhibition at the Robert Self Gallery, London, in 1977, at which this graphic set was exhibited. They also installed ten postcards in a different room, fragments from 10 Postcards ‘recomposed into a travesty of “ambitious” modern paintings’.58 The backs of the postcards list the sources of the quotations: An Anti-Catalog, the Catalog Committee, New York, 1977; Martin Heidegger, Erläuterungen zu Hölderlins Dichtung, Frankfurt am Main, 1944; Carl Andre, in October,no. 2; and Michel Foucault, in Radical Philosophy, summer 1977.

Jeremy Deller, ‘Mimesis’, 1994 10.2 × 15.2 cm (4 1/8 × 6 in.) Self-published postcard, printed by Abacus Reproduced by permission of the artist

After school at Dulwich College, London, Jeremy Deller studied History of Art at the Courtauld Institute of Art, London, declining to go to art school. This postcard is taken from a photo of Deller kissing the large mural of a girl with a tiger at Chessington World of Adventures, near Kingston upon Thames, a few miles from his boyhood home in Dulwich. A precedent for this image is the black-and-white photograph taken in 1964 by the Shunk-Kender partnership of the artist Martial Raysse kissing the image of a girl in a street poster in Paris. Deller retains his interest in public art at circuses and fairgrounds, forming the Folk Archive with Alan Kane, with whom he wrote a book on the subject in 2005.

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