No, it’s not kids sitting around chewing bubble gum and saying “I’ll trade you two Holbeins for a Rembrandt.” (Although I love that idea.)
Artist Trading Cards are small, usually original, works of art by contemporary artists (or non-artists) that meet certain criteria and are swapped between artists and collectors.
The original concept came from Swiss artist M. Vänçi Stirnemann who conceived of the idea in 1996 and launched a project in 1997 with a show of 1200 cards he created.
The idea blossomed and grew and there are now hundreds of participants around the world. Many get together at artist trading card meetups to talk and trade cards.
Several art galleries offer ATC events. There is a brief description of the basics of the cards and the activity surrounding them on the New Gallery site and the Alternator Gallery site as well as this artist’s site, and a more extensive one on the ATCards.com site.
The general rules for Artist Trading Cards (ATC) are:
The card must be the size of a standard trading card: 2 Â½ x 3 Â½ inches (64 x 89 millimeters).
A card can be ether an original work or a very small edition.
The back of the card should have a signature, the date and the number (if the card is part of an edition) and ideally an address for the benefit of contacting the artist for additional trading.
Techniques and materials can be almost anything: paintings, drawings, collages, photographs, rubberstamp works, mixed media, found images, assemblages, beadwork, woven, string, doctored existing trading cards, etc. The only real rule here is that the card should fit into the standard plastic album sleeves for trading cards, which leaves out anything too dramatically thick or three-dimensional.
The cards are not to be sold, only traded or given away. (This is a noble attempt to keep the practice non-commercial, but as with comic book artist convention sketches, that trust is sometimes betrayed; artist trading cards can be found on eBay.)
The cards should ideally be original, but reproductions or “editions” are permissible. There is some controversy about this, mostly centering around the failure of someone to be up front about the nature of the work when swapping.
There is also controversy about suspending judgment when swapping to avoid assigning value to the cards (the “quality” and amount of effort put into the cards varies wildly). Stirnemann himself has struggled with the issues of copies vs. originals and the suspension of critical judgment.
Look through the links on Stirnemann’s site and do a Google search for “Artist Trading Cards”. There are numerous forums and community sites devoted to the subject. There is a large Flickr group devoted to the subject with over 400 members and more than 2,000 images.
Community, and sharing art with others, seems to play a large part in the appeal of the practice. At the very least, it’s a fascinating concept.
Link via Metafilter.