Some ten years ago I began seriously collecting tarot cards and artwork. This grew out of my interest in
allegorical and emblematic art. Now in 2012, I have about 2500 items in my collection which
is recognised as currently the largest and most comprehensive in the world. I have not been selective
but gathered everything I could afford. I have recently realised that I have in my hands an almost
complete documentation of the artwork found in modern tarot designs.
I am concerned now to find some way to preserve this collection as a scholarly resource documenting
the amazing phenomenon that is tarot art. To this end I intend to set up a Centre for Tarot Art,
a body which can act to preserve the collection and avoid it being broken up and sold off piecemeal
when I die.
In the last 50 years an enormous amount of creative energy has been focussed on the tarot.
Well over three thousand tarot decks have been designed and published in some form.
There is a delightful variety of ways in which the various designers and artists
have realised new tarot decks. The tarot with its tight structure of 22 major
arcana each based on a clear image, and the 56 minor arcana with its four suits of
pips and court cards, might seem a restriction on the creative imagination,
but the opposite appears to be the case, as there are some astounding interpretations
and reworkings of tarot imagery to be found. This recent evolution of the tarot
suggests that it has now become a kind of emblem book reflecting the social
history of our age back to us.
The Centre for Tarot Art will require some substantial funding. This is unlikely to come through the
established world of government art funds, as most art historians at present seem unwilling to recognise the genre
of tarot art and instead dismiss it as ephemera. This is partly because they have not been able to examine and appreciate
the breadth of artwork found in modern tarot. There are no public collections of tarot art, which is ignored by
most museums, libraries and special collections, so access to tarot artwork remains in the hands of individual
collectors. My collection could provide a foundation for scholarly studies of the material if it could be
kept together and made available to the public.
In the longer term, substantial funding would be necessary to endow the collection so it could be gifted to
some museum or library. This would probably require a large sum of around £100,000 ($160,000) which the
receiving institution would invest to provide a modest income stream to help pay for the costs of conservation
and making the material publicly accessible. As I am 64 this cannot be left indefinitely, and I would hope to be
able to find some solution within the next five years.
In the medium term, there are a number of projects that could be undertaken to research the material I
have at hand and to promote interest in tarot art. It is essential to have a descriptive catalogue made of all the items.
I have already created such descriptive entries for just over one thousand items, but as I have to earn a living through
my publications, this is taking too long as I cannot devote the time to it. I feel that it would be best to try to
find someone to undertake this. It might suit an art history student as a summer job. This would probably cost about
£2000. There are many educational projects I can think of that could be undertaken to try and promote
interest in the artwork, exhibitions, conferences, publications, which would
require similar modest funding.
If this project fails to raise the necessary funding, then in the closing years of my life I will have no
alternative but to return the material to the tarot collecting community through selling off items piecemeal.
This would be a missed opportunity.