THOMSON, Charles and Billy Childish et al

An archive of material from the Stuckists

$1,939

An archive of material relating to the Stuckists, including originals of the various manifestos, a signed copy of Remodernism, advertisements and invitations to various Stuckist exhibitions and events, including leaflets and programmes for events organised by the Maidstone Poets, some of whom founded the Stuckists. A fascinating collection which traces the history and ideas of this radical, provocative and counter-cultural "anti-movement".

The Stuckists were founded by Charles Thomson and Billy Childish on 4th August 1999 with the publication of the Stuckist Manifesto in which they declared themselves to be “Against conceptualism, hedonism and the cult of the ego-artist”. Their name refers to a comment by Tracey Emin (an ex-girlfriend of Childish) whose “My Bed” had been shortlisted for the Turner Prize in 1999: “Your paintings”, she accused Childish, “are stuck, you are stuck! Stuck! Stuck! Stuck!”. Emin, together with Damien Hurst bore the brunt of much Stuckist ire as they were regarded as the epitome of self-indulgent conceptualism, what the Stuckists saw as anti-art. Stuckism felt that artists should paint, that their work should be broadly representational and that its meaning and form should be comprehensible to all viewers. It has, therefore, a naivety and directness about it but the simplicity of Stuckist art masks a biting critique of the artistic establishment.

Although it began with eleven artists, many of whom had known each other through art and poetry circles around Kent, it quickly metamorphosed, with artist leaving (Childish himself left the group in 2001) and others joining. Quite soon, Stuckist groups began to form around the world but the connections and organisation were loose. Charles Thomson, its co-founder and principal spokesman said of Stuckism that it “works by individual initiative and ad hoc collaboration”. There is an anarchist quality to Stuckism summed up in the original manifesto’s critique of Brit Art which, it said, “in being sponsored by Saatchi, mainstream conservatism and the Labour government, makes a mockery of its claim to be subversive or avant-garde”. In 2000, the Stuckists launched the Remodernist manifesto “Towards a new spirituality in art” which aimed to rescue contemporary art from “Post-Modern balderdash”. The same year, Childish and Thomson wrote a scathing open letter to the celebrated yachtsman Sir Nicholas Serota. This elicited a one line reply (perhaps Sir Nick was busy with his boat) but Serota had carelessly taken the bait and the Stuckists issued a savage manifesto against the Turner Prize and held “The Real Turner Prize” in October 2000.

A criticism of Stuckism is that “the art...gets tangled in the agit-prop. The Stuckists make a nuisance of themselves. That is their raison d’être: it is what they are for”. But perhaps British art needs Stuckism (it certainly needed it in the 1990s), needs something to shake up the smug conformism of soi-disant anti-conformism, needs avante-garde reaction. Stuckism has been seen as continuing the tradition of Wyndham Lewis’s Blast and that, perhaps, is how we should see it: an important irritant.

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