Stuckists, scourge of BritArt, put on their own exhibition
Wednesday 23 August 2006
They famously derided BritArt as "pants" and have demanded the resignation of Sir Nicholas Serota, the director of the Tate Gallery.
Now the Stuckists, the group of figurative painters who oppose conceptual art, are to use their first-ever show in a commercial West End gallery to further ridicule the Tate director.
The centrepiece of the exhibition will be Charles Thomson's painting of Sir Nicholas examining a pair of red underpants hanging from a clothes line - a send-up of Tracey Emin's unmade bed which was nominated for the Turner Prize.
In the picture, called Sir Nicholas Serota Makes An Acquisitions Decision, the Tate director asks: "Is it a genuine Emin (£10,000) or a worthless fake?"
Mr Thomson, the group's co-founder, described the exhibition as "a major development" in the recognition of the Stuckist movement and said the continuing feud with Sir Nicholas was part of a "battle of ideas" about what is important in art. He likened the group's treatment to that of the Impressionists.
"I cannot believe how history repeats itself. There are many parallels between us and the Impressionists.
"They started out and everyone ridiculed them. We said that beds are not art, paintings are art, and everyone laughed at us. People thought we hadn't got a clue. But a lot has happened in seven years and we are finally getting recognition," he said.
The Stuckists, the Tate and Sir Nicholas have a long history. It was the Stuckists who first exposed the Tate's improper payment of £700,000 to Chris Ofili, one of the Tate's trustees, which led to the gallery being censured by the Charity Commission last month.
The embarrassment of Sir Nicholas and the Tate Modern was brought about by Mr Thomson, who obtained the minutes of Tate trustees meetings under the Freedom of Information Act.
This led to the Charity Commission's fierce condemnation of the Tate's purchase of Ofili's 13 paintings, collectively entitled The Upper Room.
This came after Sir Nicholas declined an offer by the Stuckists last year to donate 175 of their paintings to the Tate.
Since 2000, the Stuckists have demonstrated outside Tate Britain against the Turner Prize, and have been critical of Sir Nicholas's role. In 2000 they held an exhibition called The Resignation of Sir Nicholas Serota.
"He has come to embody the value of the Tate," Mr Thomson said. "Chairmen and trustees come and go but Serota stays on.
"Basically, the Tate is full of his personal choice of work. He has a mission to convert everyone to his way of thinking. The Tate is a public body and every year with the Turner Prize it says 'this is the best of modern art'. We strongly disagree."
The Stuckists' latest exhibition, entitled Go West, opens at the Spectrum Gallery in Mayfair in October. Also on show in Go West are portraits by the punk guitarist Paul Harvey, of Charlotte Church and Nigella Lawson, wife of art collector Charles Saatchi.
Who are they?
* The Stuckists were founded in 1999 by Charles Thomson and Billy Childish (who left in 2001) along with 11 other artists.
* Their name comes from a comment by Tracey Emin to Childish, her then boyfriend, that he was "stuck, stuck, stuck" in his artistic tastes.
* The group published a Stuckists manifesto, written by Childish and Thomson in 1999, that places great importance on painting as a medium, and condemns conceptual art and postmodernism.
* The most contentious statement in this manifesto was: "Artists who don't paint aren't artists."
* They say: "Whatever its context a painting remains a painting. Similarly, a dead shark remains just a lifeless fish whatever its context. And no matter how much the gullible may pay for it today, postmodernism is destined for the dustbin of history, whereas the making of pictures will always be central to humanity's knowledge and understanding of itself."
* Thomson stood as a Stuckist candidate for the 2001 general election, in Islington South, against Chris Smith, the then Secretary of State for Culture. He picked up 108 votes (0.4 per cent).
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