Art Movements of 2000s: Stuckism
is an international art movement that was founded in 1999 by Billy Childish and Charles Thomson to promote figurative painting in opposition to conceptual art. The first group of thirteen British artists has since expanded, as of May 2010, to 209 groups in 48 countries.
The Stuckists have staged shows and gained media attention for outspoken comments and demonstrations, particularly outside Tate Britainagainst the Turner Prize, sometimes dressed in clown costumes. They have also stated their opposition to the Charles Saatchi-patronisedYoung British Artists. After exhibiting mainly in small galleries in Shoreditch, London, they were given their first show in a major public museum in 2004, the Walker Art Gallery, as part of the Liverpool Biennial.
Other campaigns mounted by the group include official avenues, such as standing in the 2001 general election, reporting Saatchi to the Office of Fair Trading to complain about his power in the art world (the complaint was not upheld), and applying under the Freedom of Information Act 2000 for Tate Gallery trustee minutes, which started a media scandal about the purchase of Chris Ofili’s work, The Upper Room and led to an official rebuke of the Tate by the Charity Commission.
Name, founding and origin
The name Stuckism was coined in January 1999 by Charles Thomson in response to a poem recited to him several times by Billy Childish, who records in it that his former girlfriend, Tracey Emin had said he was “stuck! stuck! stuck!” with his art, poetry and music. Later that month, Thomson approached Childish with a view to co-founding an art group called Stuckism, which Childish agreed to, on the basis that Thomson would do the work for the group, as Childish already had a full schedule.
There were ten other founding members: Philip Absolon, Frances Castle, Sheila Clark, Eamon Everall, Ella Guru, Wolf Howard, Bill Lewis,Sanchia Lewis (who joined during the first show in September and is no relation to Bill Lewis), Joe Machine, Sexton Ming, and Charles Williams. The membership had been evolved over the previous twenty-five years through creative collaborations: the group was promoted as artists, but members continued to work in various media, including poetry, fiction, performance, photography, film and music, as well as painting.
In 1979, Thomson, Childish, Bill Lewis and Ming had been in The Medway Poets performance group, to which Absolon and Sanchia Lewis had also contributed. Peter Waite’s Rochester Pottery staged a series of solo painting shows. In 1982, TVS broadcast a documentary on the poets. That year, Emin, then a fashion student, and Childish started a relationship; her writing was edited by Bill Lewis, printed by Thomson and published by Childish. Group members brought out dozens of publications. The poetry group dispersed after two years, reconvening in 1987 to record The Medway Poets LP. Clark, Howard and Machine became involved over the following years. Thomson got to know Williams, who was a local art student and whose girlfriend was a friend of Emin; Thomson also met Everall. During the foundation of the group, Ming brought in his girlfriend, Guru, who in turn invited Castle.
In August 1999, Childish and Thomson wrote The Stuckists manifesto which places great importance on the value of painting as a medium, as well as the use of it for communication and the expression of emotion and experience – as opposed to what they see as the superficial novelty, nihilism and irony of conceptual art and postmodernism. The most contentious statement in this manifesto is: “Artists who don’t paint aren’t artists”.
The second manifesto was An Open Letter to Sir Nicholas Serota which received a brief reply from him: “Thank you for your open letter dated 6 March. You will not be surprised to learn that I have no comment to make on your letter, or your manifesto ‘Remodernism’.”
In Remodernism, their third manifesto, the Stuckists declared that they aimed to replace postmodernism with Remodernism, a period of renewed spiritual (as opposed to religious) values in art, culture and society. Other manifestos include Handy Hints, Anti-anti-art, The Cappuccino writer and the Idiocy of Contemporary Writing, The Turner Prize, The Decreptitude of the Critic and Stuckist critique of Damien Hirst.
Manifestos have been written by other Stuckists, including the Students for Stuckism group. An “Underage Stuckists” group was founded in 2006 with their own manifesto for teenagers by two 16 year olds, Liv Soul and Rebekah Maybury, on MySpace. In 2006, Allen Herndon published The Manifesto of the American Stuckists, whose content was challenged by the Los Angeles Stuckists group.
The Stuckists have grown to an international movement and as of April 2010 numbered 206 (affiliated but independent) groups in 48 countries.
In October 2000, Regan Tamanui founded the Melbourne Stuckists, the fourth Stuckist group to be started and the first one outside the UK. On October 27, 2000, he staged the Real Turner Prize Show at the Dead End Gallery in his home, concurrent with three shows with the same title in England (London, Falmouth and Dartington), and one in Germany, in protest against the Tate Gallery’s Turner Prize. Other Australian Stuckists includeGodfrey Blow, who exhibited in The Stuckists Punk Victorian.
in 2000, Susan Constance founded the first US group The Pittsburgh Stuckists—the second group to be founded outside the UK. This was announced in the In Pittsburgh Weekly, 1 November 2000: “The new word in art is Stuckism. A Stuckist paints their life, mind and soul with no pretensions and no excuses.” By 2006 there were 21 US Stuckist groups. There have been Stuckist shows and demonstrations in the US, and American Stuckists have also exhibited in international Stuckist shows abroad. US Stuckists include Jeffrey Scott Holland, Tony Juliano,Frank Kozik, Terry Marks and Jesse Richards.
Stuckist artists in Europe include Peter Klint, Andreas Torneberg, Mary von Stockhausen and Frank Christopher Schroeder (Germany);Odysseus Yakoumakis (Greece), Kloot Per W (Belgium); and Michael Dickinson (Turkey).
Co-founder, Billy Childish left the group in 2001, but has stated that he remains committed to its principles. Sexton Ming left to concentrate on a solo career with the Aquarium Gallery. Wolf Howard left in 2006, but has exhibited with the group since. Jesse Richards who ran the Stuckism Centre USA in New Haven, left the group in 2006, but still works with some current and former members on occasion. Mary von Stockhausen, who runs the Stuckist Centre Germany in Lewenhagen, left the group in 2007.
- Stella Vine
In June 2000, Stella Vine went to a talk given by Childish and Thomson on Stuckism and Remodernism in London. At the end of May 2001, she exhibited some of her paintings publicly for the first time in the Vote Stuckist show in Brixton, and formed The Westminster Stuckists group. On 4 June, she took part in a Stuckist demonstration in Trafalgar Square. By 10 July, she renamed her group The Unstuckists. In mid-August, Thomson and Vine were married. A work by her was shown in the Stuckist show in Paris, which ended in mid-November, by which time she had rejected the Stuckists, and the marriage had ended.
In February 2004, Charles Saatchi bought a painting of Diana, Princess of Wales by Vine and was credited with “discovering” her. Thomson said it was the Stuckists and not Saatchi who had discovered her. At the end of March 2004, Thomson made a formal complaint about Saatchi to the Office of Fair Trading (OFT), claiming that Saatchi’s leading position was monopolistic “to the detriment of smaller competitors”, citing Vine as an example of this.On 15 April, the OFT closed the file on the case on the basis that Saatchi was not “in a dominant position in any relevant market.”
In 1999, two performance artists, Yuan Chai and Jian Jun Xi, jumped on Tracey Emin’s installation My Bed, a work consisting of the artist’s own unmade bed, at the Tate Gallery’s Turner Prize, in an unauthorised art intervention. Chai had written, among other things, the words “Anti Stuckism” on his bare back. Fiachra Gibbons ofThe Guardian wrote that the event “will go down in art history as the defining moment of the new and previously unheard of Anti-Stuckist Movement.”
The filmmaker Andrew Kotting released a manifesto declaring “The work should prove anti-Stuckist, genuinely post-modern, contingent and ad hoc in its thinking.” The London Surrealistgroup issued a manifesto denouncing Stuckism as well as Young British Artists, and stating Stuckism “is a childish kicking against modernity that fails, pathetically, to challenge the underlying realities of capitalism, of the capitalist art market, of material, psychological, psychic and spiritual repression.”