Four Decades of Artistamps, from Fluxus to the Internet
23 March 2007 - 23 April 2007
In 1987, the Museum of Fine Arts provided the venue for the well-received exhibition, entitled Stamp Images, constructed around the unique international artistamp collection numbering in the thousands, of the Artpool Archive founded by György Galántai. Ever since, this event has been recorded in the international literature as the very first museum presentation of the artistamp genre.
With the approach of the twentieth anniversary of that exhibition, it seemed timely to once again offer a rich selection from this exciting collection of primarily graphic works.
The artistamp archive of the Artpool Art Research Centre, operating since 1994 under the name Artistamp Museum, holding some ten thousand sheets of stamps from a total of one thousand two hundred artists, has thus become the most representative and most complete collection of the genre the world over. The show arranged by György Galántai, based on this archive, and in part, the personal invitation of the most important representatives of the genre, presents approximately five hundred sheets of artistamps made by two hundred fifty artists from twenty-five countries.
According to the definition of Peter Frank which is generally accepted today, all artworks that possess any of the characteristics of philately (perforation, denomination, adhesive, affixation to postal envelopes, etc.) can be considered artistamps. Philatelists categorise artistamps among the so-called Cinderella Stamps, not used for postal purposes, alongside document stamps, propaganda and charitable stamps, as well as customs tariff stamps.
The artistamp as a genre is perhaps the most well-defined form of correspondence art, yet at the same time, the most enigmatic and symbolic, of heraldic density. The invention of the word itself, artistamp, originates with Michael Bidner, who strived, with intensive organisational work, for the artistic recognition of the genre, and who donated his collection in 1989 to Artpool. Bidner employed this classification for stamps produced by artists (or artist groups), with artistic intention, in the context of mail art. The intense diffusion of artistamp-production (and mail art in general) can be explained by the increased demand for communications employing simple, quick, inexpensive electrostatic reproductive means, easily accessible to all. New means of reproduction initiated a new era in correspondence, which ensued as a result of the explosively development of increasingly inexpensive technological tools employed en masse, and of the increasing expense of traditional "snail-mail". The postal art of the 21st century comprises artistamps and mail art produced electronically, and forwarded via electronic mail, which is then printed by the addressee. And with this, the distinction between the original and the copy vanishes, and ultimately the object of value – in the stead of material – becomes the information.
The exhibition to be staged at the Museum of Fine Arts Budapest – to be supplemented with a documentation section introducing the history of the artistamp – is realised thanks to the systematic work of Artpool over a period of ten years. Beyond the defining pieces of artistamp history, not only a view of the stamps produced between 1987 and 2007 will be on display, but – virtually, through the Internet – also the complete material of the already familiar exhibition of twenty years ago: the museum tour can thus be commenced, or continued, either within the walls of the museum itself, or at home before the computer.