CENTREFOLD / Welcome to the pleasure phone: Art gallery mounts call-box sex card exhibition

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Indy Lifestyle Online
'Naughty Schoolgirl Seeks Punishment - Tel. 402 7552.'

Next time you're standing in a public telephone booth, staring at a prostitute's calling card, don't be offended. It could be a valuable work of art. Tony Devlin, 24, has been collecting hooker's advertising cards since he was 14, and has now put together the cream of the crop in an exhibition at The Irdialani Gallery.

His collection of 4,000 cards exposes a variety of 'pleasures (from Spanking to Electrocution) illustrated by cartoons, photographs, poems and messages. 'The competition is fierce, explains Devlin. 'Over the years, the size and number of cards have grown, advertising a sexual subculture full of underground terms.

Displaying a collection of colour blow-ups and framed cards (pounds 250-pounds 1,450), the exhibition offers a chance to sip strawberries in wine while admiring this lively street artform.

There aren't that many exhibits, but you can browse through copies of Devlin's fascinating book, The X-Directory, containing the best 600. 'The cards show creativity beyond the call of duty. . . enthuses Devlin, pointing out an illustration of a glistening black stiletto boot being kissed by a mannacled man. The message underneath reads, 'How DARE you spoil Madam's weekend.

All cards on display are up for grabs. For pounds 425 you can have your very own framed hand-written scrap of paper stating: '221 6382 Erections Demolished. 'It's one of the earliest, says Devlin. 'People rang it asking for their garages to be pulled down.

Should visitors be tempted to sneak away with a few telephone numbers, be warned - British Telecom has since cut off or reallocated all the lines. If you're after 'Sex Kitten With Claws, these days all you're likely to get is 'Little Old Lady With Cat.

11am-11pm, The Irdialani Gallery, 29a James St, London W1 to 23 July

(Photographs omitted)