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Death of Conceptual Art: What is Stuckism?

Stuckism is the child of the millennium. This international art movement was originated in 1999. Billy Childish and Charles Thomson are the chief proponents of this movement. Their goal is the propagation of figurative painting against conceptual art. It was first constituted by a group of thirteen British artists. Gradually it expanded in all dimensions crossing geographic barriers. It reportedly comprises 209 groups in 48 countries as of May 2010.

The Stuckists openly criticizes and stages demonstrations, mainly outside Tate Britain, against the Turner Prize. In some of these demonstrations, the members of the group dress like clowns. They have also opposed against the Young British Artists sponsored by Charles Saatchi.

Initially they used to exhibit their works in small galleries at Shoreditch, London. Their first major public museum show was arranged in the Walker Art Gallery, in 2004 as a programme of the Liverpool Biennial. They have initiated numerous campaigns to propagate their views; some of them are as follows:

  1. Contesting in the 2001 general election,

  2. Complaining Saatchi to the Office of Fair Trading for misuse of his power in the art world though such complaints was not sustained, and

  3. Requesting under the Freedom of Information Act 2000 for the release of Tate Gallery trustee minutes.

The last attempt created a media scandal reportedly about the acquisition of Chris Ofili's work, The Upper Room. Consequently the Charity Commission face reprimands from the Tate.

The Stuckists manifesto was written in August 1999 by Childish and Thomson. It stresses on the worth of painting as a medium, and using it for communication, the expression of emotion and experience as well. Thus it opposes to the depiction of superficial novelty, nihilism, postmodernism and irony of conceptual art. The most controversial proclamation in this manifesto says that only painters are artists. They wrote a second manifesto named An Open Letter to Sir Nicholas Serota. The addressee replied with acknowledgement but he refused to comment on the same. Their third manifesto is Remodernism. In this literature, they announced that substitution of postmodernism by Remodernism as their goal. They described this process of substitution as a phase of renewal in spiritual (but not religious) values in creative endeavors, culture and society. They published successive manifestoes as detailed below:

1. Handy Hints, 2. Anti-anti-art, 3. The Cappuccino writer and the Idiocy of Contemporary Writing, 4. The Turner Prize, 5. The Decrepitude of the Critic and 6. Stuckist critique of Damien Hirst.

Such manifestos have also been written by others in affiliates, even by the Students for Stuckism group. On MySpace Liv Soul and Rebekah Maybury, in 2006, both at their age of sixteen, has co-formed "Underage Stuckists" for the teenagers. In the same year Allen Herndon published contentious The Manifesto of the American Stuckists. Entire content of this book was challenged by the Los Angeles Stuckists group.

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