Tart cards are cards placed in phone booths to advertise the services of call girls, found in countries such as the United Kingdom (particularly London), In Northwest England the cards are known as slag tags. The cards originated in the late 1980s and at first they were simple black-and-white photocopies without the photographs of later years. They now usually include a mobile telephone number or website. They are typically placed in phone booths by professional "carders", who tour the phone booths, replacing cards which have been removed by the telephone companies' cleaners. Carders often remove cards placed by rival carders. In the UK, placing them in phone booths has been illegal since the passing of the Criminal Justice and Police Act 2001, although the practice still continues.
Tart cards have become regarded as items of ‘accidental art’. They have developed a cult following and influenced the work of mainstream artists, inspiring collections, research, exhibitions and books.
Similar cards in other countries
Similar cards are found in other countries including the following places:
- United States: In Las Vegas they are known as "sex cards" and left on sidewalks and hotel stairways. In hispanophone parts of New York City they are known as "Chica Chica" (Girls Girls) cards and men hand them out as flyers at night on the streets.
- Argentina: They are found in Buenos Aires.
- Brazil: They are found in São Paulo.
- South Korea: They may be found on the streets and in the public men's toilets of Seoul.
- Poland: Carders place them behind windscreen wipers in the central parts of Warsaw.
- Israel: Business card format advertisements are commonly dropped on street corners in Tel Aviv.
- China: Business cards are given out by pimps to potential customers.
- Macau: They are dropped in the city's sidewalks and underpasses.
- "Crackdown on telephone box 'tartcards'". PA News. May 16, 1999.
- "17 Boxes Of Smut From The Euston Road". Londonist. Retrieved 18 July 2014.
- Russell Dornan (21 March 2014). "Putting the art into "tart"". The Wellcome Collection Blog.
- Archer, Caroline; Clayton, Rob (2003). Tart Cards: London's Illicit Advertising Art. Mark Batty. ISBN 9780972424042.
- "The Typographic Hub: Tart Cards". Birmingham Institute of Art & Design. Retrieved 18 July 2014.
- "Tart Cards Exhibition". Plymouth College of Art. 9–27 January 2012. Retrieved 18 July 2014.
- "Sex Issue: Type Tart Cards". Wallpaper (magazine). Retrieved 18 July 2014.
- Russel, Sabin (June 29, 2003). "'Just Say No' — to sex — hits Las Vegas". San Francisco Chronicle. p. 46.
- Kenneth Lovett (27 March 2011). "'Chica Chica' cards pimp hookers and prostitution, says state senator who wants to make them illegal". NY Daily News. Retrieved 23 August 2014.
- "Goodbye to the public telephone: only half are left and rarely used" (in Spanish). Clarín. February 7, 2009.
- Kanno, Maurício (February 1, 2010). "Prostitutes and their adverts are coming to Twitter" (in Portuguese). Folha Online.
- Katie Hunt (18 June 2013). "The dark side of Asia's gambling Mecca". CNN. Retrieved 15 August 2014.
- Tart Cards: London’s Illicit Advertising Art, Caroline Archer and Rob Clayton, Mark Batty Publisher, 2003. (ISBN 978-0972424042)
- Tart Cards, Caroline Archer, Baseline 40, edited by Mike Daines & Hans Dieter Reichert, Bradbourne Publishing, 2003.
- The X-Directory, edited by Tony Devlin. Pi34 Publisher, 1993. (ISBN 1898760004)