Thursday, 12 July 2012


ethnographic map of Cyprus

I half-watched a documentary the other day on the new wave of art collectors. Amidst my Jacobin scorn for such a bourgeois pastime, I discerned that the underlying message – the propaganda, maybe, as I didn’t find out who made the programme – was how buying art was a sound investment. Maybe, if you think that way. Presumably it was fairly important who the artist was.

Anyway, the programme managed to bring me a second wave of disappointment from the same event, some seven or eight years after the first. The memory that was crowbarred from my unconscious concerned the time I popped into Nottingham’s funky Alley CafĂ© when they happened to be exhibiting a collection of adulterated maps by graffiti artist-cum-designer Nathan Bainbridge, a.k.a. Smallkid, and was told the one I wanted (cost: £30) had been sold. Gah!

That would have been a significant outlay at the time, still would, but there was something instantly, overwhelmingly attractive about the piece (probably because I was fascinated with maps as a child, able to draw many from memory), something compelling about the concept – and my own scant artistic output is all about concepts – that made me want to forego some basic consumables and buy it. Not as an investment, mind; just as something unusual and beautiful to look at. Something “sick”. I even went back the following day for a second choice, but they had all sold. Double gah!

Some years later, when I’d made and lost my fortune (i.e. had briefly taken my bank balance to four figures), I decided I’d commission Smallkid to do his thing on a map of Cyprus for my parents’ fortieth wedding anniversary, the country where they have a modest holiday home. I emailed him twice, but he never did reply.

Nae bother. Below you’ll find four examples of his cartographic design pieces. If you’ve got enough money to commission him, and a particular map you’d like him to scribble on (though no country’s outline, not even New Zealand’s, is as cool as Cyprus: so good they even, uniquely, put it on their flag), then you could try contacting him via his website, or on n.bainbridge[at] And tell him I sent you.

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