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The vanishing art postcardBY: Andrew Mangravite 02.23.2010
These days fewer art museums are offering postcard reproductions of artworks. Whatever the short-term economic reason, society— and the museums themselves— will suffer in the long run.
Where have all the postcards gone?ANDREW MANGRAVITE
I’ve noticed of late that fewer and fewer art museums are offering postcard reproductions of artworks. I’m not sure whether this is due to economics or the new copyright situation, but I do know that it’s very unfortunate.
Most people aren’t born with a natural appreciation for art— for beauty maybe, but for art, no. They must be educated to appreciate it. One way of learning to love art is to own it. And the cheapest way to own a piece of great art is to purchase a humble postcard reproduction of it.
This is becoming increasingly difficult. Revolving racks of art postcards used to be available in most college bookstores, and of course all art museums sold them in their gift shops. In the 1970s there was even a little shop in the SoHo neighborhood of New York that sold nothing but art reproduction postcards. Much of what I learned about art came from purchasing postcards as well as those wonderful little full-color 50-cent “great artists” paperbacks with the foldout plates that Harry N. Abrams used to publish. (Barnes and Noble offered a competing series, but its plates weren’t all reproduced in color.)
I dearly wish that art museums at least would step up to the plate and begin offering postcards for sale again, if only as a way of educating their future customers. The teenager or college student who purchases a postcard reproduction of a Picasso today may become the connoisseur who some day patronizes working artists by purchasing their work from galleries— and maybe even leaves her art collection to the local museum that sold her that first card.♦
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