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Australian art

Contemporary art

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Richard Tipping


1949 -


Richard Tipping's 'artsigns' evolved out of a series of so called 'interventions' on the streets of Adelaide and Sydney during the late 1970s and early 1980s. An 'intervention' entailed Tipping temporarily changing or obscuring text on traffic signs with tape in order to find or create new words with alternative meanings. In doing so, Tipping undermined signage designed to instruct and inhibit people in their day-to-day routines. This irreverent and somewhat profound brand of guerrilla visual poetry prompted viewers to momentarily stop and consider where they are going and why. In his own words:

"The inspiration for these manipulated readywords came from photographing bizarre/ironic/ambiguous signs found in the language landscapes of urban worlds and their connecting roads, as shown in my book of photographs Signs of Australia (Penguin, 1982). I decided to intervene, interact, make my own. Interfering in public space, challenging the glance-quick simplicity and authority of that most urgently important of texts, the roadsign (designed to be viewed, understood, acted upon at speed) is a risk - if it means making extra risk for distracted drivers. When was poetry last blamed for an accident? The resonance has to last, become imbedded, yet be given quick as a wink to people who are going places fast [1].

Tipping's first intervention took place in Adelaide in 1979 when (perhaps self-consciously referencing his practice), he pulled his car over to the side of the road and altered an 'Airport' sign, so that it read 'Airpoet'. Later, in 1981, 'hump' and 'crossing' signs at Bondi Beach and the Sydney University check-point were amusingly altered to 'hum' and 'sing'. His 'artsigns' have addressed everything from art history ('Caution - there is no avant-garde') to contemporary life ('Reduce need' & 'No understanding'). The artist commissions a professional sign-maker in Newcastle to employ the same materials, colours, and font, as the originals.

1. Richard Tipping in The Sydney Morning Volume III, Thorny Devil Press, 1992




Media category


Materials used

reflective tape on box-edged steel sheet, A-frame legs




60.0 x 150.0 cm

Signature & date

Signed and dated vertically on side, incised "Richard Tipping 2014 ...".


Contemporary Collection Benefactors 2015


Not on display

Accession number


Artist information

Richard Tipping

Works in the collection


Shown in 2 exhibitions

Exhibition history

Referenced in 2 publications


Anne Kirker, Artlink, 'Fluxus and after...', pg. 26-32, Henley Beach, Mar 2007, 30 (colour illus.). 2004 original edition; photographed in situ

Sculpture by the sea: ninth annual exhibition, Sydney, 2005, 41 (illus.). 60; titled 'end artwork'; 2004 original edition