Curious, humorous and anonymous: Ian Harris’s Argos art postcard interventions
Ian Harris is a man of many parts, having been at various stages in his life a successful graphic artist, fashion designer, homewares retailer and musician/performer, notably with late 60s blues-rock group The Earth and as his mod revival alter ego Terry Tonik.
Just this week Harris let me in on a curious, humorous and anonymous public intervention series he staged in London galleries and museums a few years back.
Harris bought two sets of 60 postcards from a variety of institutions, among them Tate Britain, the National Gallery, the National Portrait Gallery and the Imperial War Museum, and meticulously inserted found images of everyday domestic and natural objects – many from a catalogue for home-order company Argos – into the prominent works of art on the front of each of them.
Keeping one set for himself, he returned and placed the appended cards back in the sales racks as a surprise for the casual browsers and shop assistants who might come across, say, Jacques-Louis David’s The Death Of Marat completed with the addition of a bathroom cabinet, lavatory roll and folded towels, or John Betjeman strolling through Degas’ Ball At The Moulin De La Galette.
The use of mocking puns and jarring juxtapositions puts me in mind of the Orton/Halliwell library book defacements. The gentleness and sly wit of Harris’s interventions – combined with the knowledge we will likely never discover the reaction from the public – makes them just as intriguing.
Catch up on Harris and his activities here.
• Thanks to Ian for allowing me to reproduce this selection from his series.