David Wightman, Art on a Postcard

Combining student graphics and illustration with pieces by art world big guns like The Chapman Brothers, David Shrigley, and Julian Opie, Art on a Postcard is a neat summary of what makes a stand-out image on a shrunk-down format. The initiative is part of a fundraising drive for the UK’s Hepatitis C Trust, which aims to eliminate Hepatitis C “as a major health concern by 2030,” and end its stigma as “a drug users’ disease.”

Each year since 2014, the trust has contacted a number of artists and designers to make postcard-sized work that is sold for £50 ($65) a pop at London’s Moniker art fair, with buyers allocated a work at random. Other works are also auctioned off in a secret online auction, available to view at  Maddox gallery for a week beforehand. There’s a glorious mix of abstraction, graphic art, naïve illustration, and text-based work. We spoke to Art on a Postcard’s founder Gemma Peppé to find out more about the initiative.

Joe Webb, Art on a Postcard

How did Art on a Postcard come about?

It’s a fundraiser for Hepatitis C, which is quite a difficult disease or charity to fundraise for. It’s not “sexy”, and even people who have it don’t want to talk about it, so we don’t have a lot of personal donations and very little funding from the government. We needed to get funding from elsewhere, and found doing art auctions was a sustainable way of fundraising. Our first auction was in 2014 and we had people like Damien Hirst, Gilbert & George, and Marc Quinn getting involved.

Paul Newman, Eraserhead, for Art on a Postcard

How do you go about selecting artists and designers to get involved?

I just spend days looking at websites and shows, and you have to look at what you think is going to be collectible. Ultimately Art on a Postcard only works because people think the work’s going to be collectible and because people can get a valuable piece of art for an affordable price. But people don’t know what they’re going to get: they could get a Harland Miller or a piece of work by an up-and-coming illustrator. Either way they pay £50. Sometimes you approach people and something comes back that you weren’t expecting, but I always make sure I go for people whose work isn’t just collectible, but something that I like.

It must be challenging for some artists who often work on quite large scales to create something in a postcard format. What sort of style do you think works?

I think the more graphic styles work, as graphic artists seem to understand the medium well. Some painters find it very challenging working on such a small scale, but the challenge is half the fun as well. I can’t define what works best; we have some incredible stuff that looks like 3D cubes, and abstracts work very well too.

Do you find the art world is generally receptive to helping charitable causes?

I think artists more than any other group of people are very generous. For some artists, like Grayson Perry, making a postcard is like printing money. But they don’t just create any old thing, they make tiny miniatures of what they usually do on a much bigger scale. Artists have been above all the most generous and philanthropic as a group of people. They come back and donate year after year. I think they have more of a tendency to be more liberal-minded people.