Artist trading cards

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Artist Trading Card by M. Vänçi Stirnemann

Artist trading cards are cards bearing self-made unique works or small series, signed and dated on the reverse by the artist. Introduced as a "Collaborative Cultural Performance" by the Swiss artist and book dealer M. Vänçi Stirnemann in 1997, they are 2 12 by 3 12 inches (64 mm × 89 mm) in size, the same format as modern trading cards (hockey cards or baseball cards), and are exchanged and collected by the people who participate in the collaborative performance.[1] There are regular trading sessions in more than 30 cities in Europe, Canada, the US and Australia.[2] Anybody can participate in the project and all techniques are allowed.[3] The cards are decorated in various media, including dry media (pencils, pens, markers, etc.), wet media (watercolor, acrylic paints, etc.), paper media (in the form of collage, papercuts, found objects, etc.), and metals, fiber, wax and other materials.

Trading sessions, exhibitions and editions[edit]

In 1996, Stirnemann began making small artworks the size of commercial trading cards. An exhibition of 1200 of Stirnemann's cards ran at his second-hand bookshop and gallery in Zurich, Switzerland between 23 April and 31 May 1997. The exhibition ended with a trading session.[4] A few weeks afterwards, the Canadian artist Don Mabie adopted the idea and showed artist trading cards at the Alberta College of Art and Design in Calgary, Canada.[citation needed] In September 1997, a trading session was organized at the New Gallery in Calgary. The Zurich and Calgary trading sessions are still held on a monthly basis.[when?][citation needed]

In April 1998, editions were shown at the Academy of Fine Arts in Stuttgart, Germany, and in June and July 1998 shows and trading sessions were organized in Arnhem and Nijmegen, the Netherlands.[5] In July 1998, the New Gallery in Calgary showed "Hot Town: Artist Trading Cards in the Summer" (curated by Don Mabie). From 15 October until 27 December 1998, an exhibition of Artist Trading Cards (copy-left editions) took place at the Kunsthaus Zurich in Switzerland, and in May 1999, the Kunsthaus Aarau (also in Switzerland) organized a show and trading event as part of the "Salon 99" exhibition.[6] In September 2000, a first "Artist Trading Cards Biennial" (curated by Don Mabie and M. Vänçi Stirnemann) was taking place in The New Gallery in Calgary, Canada, and in 2003, there was a large exhibition at the Kunstverein Stuttgart in Stuttgart, Germany. In May 2002, the fifth anniversary of the project was celebrated with a trading session at the Cabaret Voltaire in Zurich.[7] In subsequent years, shows and exhibitions took place in many places in Europe, Canada, the US and Australia. ATCs were published in different catalogues, mostly performance catalogues or small press magazines.[8][9]

Historical context[edit]

One influence was art movements of the 20th century which advocated a more populist art, not for museums or auctions but from and within everyday life. In this respect, the ATC project has affinity with Robert Filliou's notions of a "fête permanente", a "création permanente", or an "eternal network".[10] The "art of participation" as an interactive process can be traced back to the 1950s, and it developed within different genres like performance art and happenings, action art, mail art, or later computer art.[11][12][13][14]


  1. ^ Boettcher, Shelley. "The New Art Dealers. Forget Pokemon and Hockey Cards. Today’s Creative People trade their own Works of Art", Calgary Herald, 15 January 2000.
  2. ^ van den Berg, Karen, and Ursula Pasero (eds.). Art production beyond the art market? Berlin, Sternberg Press, 2013.
  3. ^ Osborne, Catherine. „Keeping it real: Public art for people“, Broken Pencil - The guide to alternative culture in Canada 3, 1999.
  4. ^ Bossardt, Fredi. "Trading Cards", WOZ, 18 April 1997.
  5. ^ Pieterse, Martin. „Een Artist Trading Card is kunst op speelkartenformaat“, The Gelderlander, 4 June 1998.
  6. ^ Stirnemann, M. Vänçi. "Artist Trading Cards", SALON 99, catalogue for the SALON 99 exhibition. Kunsthaus Aarau, 1999.
  7. ^ Lind, Maria (ed.). Performing the curatorial: Within and beyond art. Berlin, Sternberg Press, 2012.
  8. ^ For example: POW.WOW: WYSIWYG. Performance catalogue; edition of 25 (contains hundreds of ATCs). Nijmegen and Arnhem, 1998.
  9. ^ "Kulturzeit". 3SAT / Radio DRS 1 & DRS 3, April 1999.
  10. ^ Spoerri, Daniel. An anecdoted topography of chance. Done with the help of Robert Filliou; further anecdoted by Emmett Williams; enriched with still further anecdotations by Dieter Roth. London: Atlas Press, 1995.
  11. ^ Frieling, Rudolf et al. The Art of Participation. San Francisco: San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, 2008.
  12. ^ Chandler, Annmarie, et al. (ed.). At a Distance: Precursors to Art and Activism on the Internet. Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 2005.
  13. ^ Hopkins, David. After Modern Art, 1945-2000. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000.
  14. ^ Dezeuze, Anna (ed.). The 'do-it-yourself' Artwork: Participation from Fluxus to New Media. Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2010.

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