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Curious, humorous and anonymous: Ian Harris’s Argos art postcard interventions

/A selection of the 60 appended cards Harris placed in London art gallery and museum shops. No reproduction without permission//

//The Death Of Marat, Jacques-Louis David, 1793. No reproduction without permission//

//Charles I, Daniel Mytens, 1631. Card from National Portrait Gallery. No reproduction without permission//

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.

//Thomas Cranmer, Gerlach Flicke, 1545. Card from NPG. No reproduction without permission//

//The Gleaners, Jean-Francois Millet, 1857. No reproduction without permission//

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.

//Past And Present No 1, Augustus Leopold Egg, 1858. Card from Tate Britain. No reproduction without permission//

//The Capel Family, Cornelius Johnson c1640. From NPG. No reproduction without permission//

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.

//Ball At The Moulin De La Galette, Pierre Auguste Renoir, 1876. No reproduction without permission//

//Mariana, John Everett Millais, 1851. No reproduction without permission//

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.

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Author: / Published: Feb 18th, 2017 / Category: 2010s, Art, Interventions, Postcards / Comments: 1

One Response to “Curious, humorous and anonymous: Ian Harris’s Argos art postcard interventions”


  1. Ian Harris
    on Feb 18th, 2017
    @ 3:31 pm

    Thank you Paul, so kind.

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