Going places? No, we only took a trip to the Costa del Spoof

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THIRTEEN art students yesterday said they did not really blow pounds 1,800 sponsorship on holidaying in Spain as they had claimed (and has been reported in almost every newspaper except The Independent), but had never left Britain at all. The whole affair was, they said, a work of Art.

A row broke out when it appeared that the Leeds University students had gone to the Costa del Sol instead of preparing what would be more usually called art for a degree show.

Lecturers and a sponsor who were invited to their exhibition, entitled "Going Places", were greeted by sangria, flamenco music and a stewardess who shepherded them on to a coach. After they arrived at Leeds-Bradford airport, a flight from Spain was signalled on the monitors and the artists appeared, complete with suitcases and tans. But yesterday it emerged that the whole exercise was not what it seemed. Photographs supporting their holidaying claims turned out to have been snapped in Scarborough, their tans were from a sunbed and other exotic snaps were exposed as Leeds.

Alex Sobel, finance officer for the Leeds University student union, which gave pounds 1,126 as a grant, said he had had his suspicions. "I saw one of them during the period they were supposed to be away," he said.

But the project really took off when the students revealed their elaborate scheme to the student newspaper. The union, although initially livid, was more sanguine once the students promised to repay the cash. But Mr Sobel said: "It gives the union a bad name, because it looks as if we give money for fraudulent use."

But Terry Atkinson, who is the students' tutor and a former Turner Prize nominee, said the idea had been very successful in raising questions about the nature of art.

Provoking the media interest had been part of the project. "In relatively difficult terms, what we would say is the relations of distribution - how the idea gets distributed - have become part of the production," he said. "We knew they were a lively year and were capable of serious intellectual work and this underlines that."