The British Museum Displays Postcards from the 1960’s to Now

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The British Museum is hosting, “The World Exists to be Put on a Postcard: Artists’ Postcards from 1960 to Now”, an exposition of postcard art as well as protest symbols. Around three hundred postcards are on display at the museum in London. It features a few self-published postcards that contain provocative slogans, such as “Chopin had dishpan hands”, “Beethoven was a lesbian”, “Mozart was a black Irish washerwoman”, and “Brahms was a two-penny harlot”. While supposed to be humorous, these slogans also signify women’s status in the music world.

Examples of these postcards were gifted to the museum by Jeremy Cooper. The famous writer started collecting them back in 2008; at a time when was going through loneliness, he wanted to connect with art but lacked money for that.

“I loathed what the art world stood for, all the money and things,” Cooper said, recollecting the difficult days in his life. “I’ve always liked postcards … and I had always bought postcards to send. So I started buying postcard art, and the more you look the more you find these wonderful things.”

The writer gradually purchased a vast collection from Gilbert and George, Yoko Ono, Rachel Whiteread, and Susan Hiller. There is a 1993 postcard of two young British artists, Sarah Lucas and Tracey Emin, carrying melons under the arm. Some cards were made as exhibition invitations, like a tricolor anti-Vietnam-war postcard that invites a person to a show devoted to Jasper Johns. There are also Andy Warhol self-portraits, created as invites to Cincinnati’s Contemporary Arts Center members.

The collection of Jeremy Cooper has a few Christmas cards as well, with works by artists like Carolee Schneemann and Anthony McCall. Alongside these unique cards, it also has some mass productions such as postcard montage by Peter Kennard of “Constable’s Haywain with Cruise Missiles”. It was made as a material for Nuclear Disarmament campaign and has sold many copies.

Kennard said, “When we first did it I did actually go in to the National Gallery and put them in their postcard racks. American tourists used to buy them thinking it was the Hay Wain.”

Just about all of these postcards cost Cooper less than 100 pounds. He gifted around a thousand examples from his card collection, of which, three hundred are on display at the British Museum touring exhibition. You can catch them when on a British Museum guided tour through August 04, 2019.

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