Social media of the troubled 60s revisited in Sheffield

Museums Sheffield's Alison Morton with Portfolio Case, by John Battan. Picture: Scott Merrylees
Museums Sheffield's Alison Morton with Portfolio Case, by John Battan. Picture: Scott Merrylees
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He was perhaps the first artist to distribute his work via social media, although in 1968 it meant entrusting it to the post office.

Two decades before Bradford’s David Hockney harnessed the fax machine and then the iPad as his media of choice, the New Yorker William Copley devised a method for sending works of art directly to subscribers through the mail, bypassing the services of dealers.

His network brought together work by some of the most important artists of the time, including Man Ray, Marcel Duchamp and Yoko Ono, and their works reflect the turbulence of 1960s American politics.

The project’s 50th anniversary is being marked by a three-month exhibition at Sheffield’s Graves Gallery, which will see Copley’s portfolio shown in full for the first time in the UK.

Alison Morton of Museums Sheffield said: “The portfolio is a fascinating window on a specific moment in art history and an example of radical thinking that is really indicative of the time.

“Copley’s idea was a great one, and it’s made even more impressive by the calibre of the artists who contributed to the project.”

The exhibition, which is free, opens on Tuesday.