Pink Gaffes

For a couple of years beginning in 1989, a trio of Italians made several hundred postage stamps and used them to send letters through their country's notoriously slow and inept postal service. The hand-drawn stamps tended towards the satirical and the comic: one that featured a picture of an Italian porn star called for protection of endangered species. Others celebrated "Ménage à Trois Week", "The Dissolution of Igloos," and "The European Week for Social Climbers." During the Gulf War, one even called for "Nuclear War in Iraq and Naples". 

The three stamp makers-- Lello Padiglione, Maurizio de Fazio, and Pierluca Sabatino-- finally confessed to a local newspaper, Il Mattino, prompting a police investigation. Although it's tempting to label the stamps as counterfeits and the trio as criminals, the group claims not to have intended ever to profit from their activities. "There was no money in our business," said Padiglione. "Each stamp took us several hours to make." And judging from the aesthetic qualities of the stamp shown here, it is doubtful the trio's stamps could ever have been intended to pass as the real thing (or at least not for very long). They even wrote on one of their stamps: "Check stamps more carefully-- this could be a fake."

The trio offered various explanations for their stampmaking project. Padiglione: "We just wanted to take the postal service for a ride."  De Fazio: "We wanted to comment on issues of public interest but in a funny and ironic way." These rationales place the Neapolitan stamps on the boundary between prank and art. They can further be classified as borderline fictive art because the stamps were not just made as aesthetic objects, but deliberately used in the real world.

After the group outed itself, a Milanese art publisher issued a book featuring more than 200 of their stamps. The book was titled Granchi Rosi, or Pink Gaffes, in honor of an infamous 1961 stamp that was issued to honor the visit of then Italian president Givoanni Gronchi to Peru. On the stamp, the map of Peru had the wrong borders.

Source:  International Herald Tribune, ca. 1991-93.