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Spare Art

austin"Is magic an art?" is a question that is often asked.

Even if it is not, there is certainly art contained in The Magic Circle collection: and exceedingly valuable art too.  These are the tarot cards designed by an artist called Austin Osman Spare, who has recently received a huge surge of interest (and the commensurate value of his work) in recent years. 

tarotSpare came from a working class background and was hailed early on as an infant prodigy; but later in life fell into obscurity.  So much so, that he was forced to earn money by selling racing forecast cards.  The advertisements for these cards, it must be said, were very honest: they actually stated that as winning wasn't guaranteed through their use, the price of the cards were not that expensive.

He was born in 1886 and produced his tarot cards around 1906 - they passed into The Magic Circle collection in 1944, gifted by member and magician Herbert J Collings. Spare's other work that survives is very avant garde - a touch of surrealism, the grotesque, weird self-portrait and pop art.  It is, though, very striking and, at times, very sexually explicit.  Rumour has it that Hitler tried to get a portrait commissioned from Spare; but was turned down.  Hitler got his revenge when Spare's studio was bombed during the blitz and he lost some 200 paintings.  He died in 1956.

camden

The Tarot cards are presently on display at the Camden Arts Centre in London; but only until 15th May.  And a book, edited by Jonathan Allen, titled Lost Envoy which reproduces Spare’s deck in its entirety, alongside commissioned texts, can be purchased here.  

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