THE REAL TURNER PRIZE (October 24, 2000)

“Nick,” I hugged Serota when I spotted him in the crowd at the Turner Prize opening at Tate Britain this evening, “it’s wonderful to see you!” I was in one of my expansive moods, but I was genuinely glad to see him. He appeared pleased to see me, too. “Ah,” I grabbed him by his bony shoulders, “when I look at you like this, I cannot but see Charles Thomson’s portrait of you, which I saw last night at the Real Turner Prize Show in Shoreditch.” I emphasized the word “real” with all my might. “Yes,” Nick beamed back at me without even blinking, “I must see it!” Christ, I am so angry with Charles. I wanted to introduce him to Nick, but the scoundrel failed to show up at Millbank at six-fifteen this evening, as we agreed last night. I had even sent a message to the Tate to tell them that Lauren was in the States, and that I would come instead with a friend of mine, a co-founder of Stuckism.

Addendum I (October 26, 2000)

After I sent this piece by electronic mail to my “Let’s Make Art!” list, I found Charles’ apology, which was sent the previous evening. As he explains, in the wake of the Stuckist opening in Pure Gallery he was simply too busy:

Grovel, grovel, grovel. I am sorry I left you standing outside the Tate. I only had three hours sleep last night. On the go all day. Looking forward to meeting you. Late in the afternoon I had a very good press contact to feature the whole group, but I had to get them all together in two days. Then another enquiry from BBC. Then I look at my watch. Oh my god, I am never going to get there anywhere near on time. And I have to finish arranging above stuff—which I have to get done. Erk. Just have to hope Ranko will understand, as I was so looking forward to being Mrs. Bon for a night, so to speak. It looks like another three-hour sleep tonight.

He closes his message by mentioning that Billy Childish had invited him as his guest to another opening night at the Tate, which took place yesterday. “How many of these things are there?” he pleads. This morning I found another message from Charles. He responds to my piece:

Let’s look on the positive side of all this. I did get to the Tate last night with Billy for the Channel 4 party to which he was invited, and we both succeeded in getting thrown out for dispensing our manifesto on the Turner Prize—despite actually being in conversation with someone at the time from Channel 4 who wanted to include us in a documentary. Actually I got thrown out a bit later for putting leaflets in the Takahashi installation. But don’t worry, the guys from The Standard are already on the case. Check today’s edition, but not News Extra, the first edition of the day. Most of the people there said they agreed with us—including, for example, Virginia Bottomley. Richard Whitely seemed simply confused. Then we got let back in anyway.

He adds a few words about other events of the day:

At the National Portrait Gallery private view earlier in the evening we were welcomed by the director, who praised our stance on figurative painting, and we again handed out leaflets which were extremely well received on the whole. Some people there had been to our private view. Others had heard Joe Crompton of Superhumanism talking about Stuckism on Radio 4 Today Program that morning—or had seen the various Evening Standard mentions.

It is indeed wonderful how the Stuckists have managed to use the Turner Prize to catapult themselves—that is, their ideas—into the limelight. The media coverage of the event, at first carefully choreographed by the Tate, has now spun out of control. At long last one feels that something is really happening. At any rate, Charles ends his message with a few words referring back to my piece: “Next time, do something brave and mention us to Tracey.” Touché!

Addendum II (January 30, 2001)

In Charles Thomson’s portrait of Nick Serota unveiled at the Real Turner Prize Show, the director of the Tate is depicted in the act of pondering whether a pair of red knickers hanging on a clothes-line were indeed Tracey Emin’s or a mere fake. Judging from tonight’s television news, in the end he must have decided they were original, indeed, for the Tate has just acquired an entire collection of Tracey’s knickers. Presumably, they are all properly soiled. However, I am very uncomfortable with the use of public money for the acquisition of art objects of questionable authenticity. When it comes to soiled knickers, it is difficult, if not impossible, to differentiate between an original and a fake. I would therefore insist on full documentary evidence for each and every pair, including video and audio tapes, sworn testimony of all those involved in their production, that is to say soiling, and the like. The evidence could be shown alongside the objects of art, in which case it would probably attract considerable interest on the part of the art-loving public. It would also appeal to new audiences, especially those previously not exposed to art. In my estimation, such evidence would only enhance the appreciation of Tracey’s talent, as well as increase the value of the art objects themselves.