László Beke



Everybody collects stamps while a child.

Postage-stamps are of the same age as photography.

Forefathers and relatives to stamps include seals, rubber-stamps, postmarks, money and cheque as well as graphics.

Stamp is one of the most fantastic objects: feather weight, miniature picture, symbolizing money to be cancelled by postmarks, representing the way from sender to mail to addressee, being a medium carrying extra information (of culture and aesthetics, propaganda and advertising) while carried by the consignment itself. Put on, it loses object character. It makes value for a collector. It is unforgeable (or rather forgeable) just like money.

There are special stamps such as fee stamps, postage-due-stamps, semi-postal stamps, memorial stamps, charity stamps, membership dues stamps, printed stamps.

A stamp can be substituted by a piece of paper put on an envelope and cancelled as well as by a postmark indicating “postage paid”. (Cf. date-cancelling machines.)

Stamps are identified by their issuers (state post office, a corporate body or institution), denomination, perforation and an adhesive back side. Any of these conditions can fail to come off or be substituted by others.

Artist’s stamps have nothing to do with artistic stamps. Artist’s stamps have everything to do with one of the marginal arts of today, i. e. mail art (something to do with concept art as well), including rubber stamp art and artist’s postcard.

A philatelist’s club specializing in faulty stamps has been mentioned by Hans Richter as a recent phenomenon close to Dada.

Artist’s stamps have no denomination and are not to be used for prepayment. They can and cannot be put on consignments. They can be piece produced, too.

Typical of artist’s stamps are converted postage stamps, hand-drawn stamps, stamps of an unusual form, size or representation, anything used for a stamp, metastamp and stampstamp.

Artist’s stamps are the communication media between artists. There are, however, some possibilities for them to get into contact with the masses:

- through adhesives (such as stickers, scotch tapes etc.)

- through perforation as a means of expression (cf. sprocket holes, memo-pads, toilet paper, appendix etc.)

Artist’s stamps are art like anything else. There is good art and bad art. (What is art?)

For artist’s stamps to be able to exceed childish philately and outdo the arts two things might be needed. The first is to forward any consignment free of charge, the other is to accept artist’s stamps for prepayment.

Stamps bear the stamp of the days. Days bear the stamp of the artist’s stamp.

(English translation by G. Somogyi)

*László Beke is a historian and critic of art living and working in Budapest. He specializes in avant-garde art.
This essay was published in: World Art Post, Artpool, Budapest, 1982, pp. 6. <>

[WAP texts]