Art Term

Mail art

Mail art is a movement based on the principle of sending small scale works through the postal service

Július Koller, ‘NO ART!’ 1970
Július Koller
NO ART! 1970
Tate
© The estate of Július Koller

Mail art began in the 1960s when artists sent postcards inscribed with poems or drawings through the post rather than exhibiting or selling them through conventional commercial channels.

Its origins can be found in Marcel Duchamp and Kurt Schwitters and the Italian futurists. But it was the New York artist Ray Johnson who, in the mid 1950s, posted small collages, prints of abstract drawings and poems to art world notables giving rise to what eventually became known as the New York Correspondence School.

Mail art and can take a variety of forms including postcards, packages, faxes, emails and blogs. In the 1960s the Fluxus artist On Kawara sent telegrams to friends and family that informed them he was alive. In the mid 1990s, the artist and curator Matthew Higgs set up Imprint, which posted art by young British artists, among them Martin Creed, to critics and curators.

It is considered to be the predecessor of net art.

selected artworks in the collection