Fuckart & Pimp
Fuckart & Pimp was a media hoax conceived by Alex Chappel and David C West in April 1998 which subjected London's Decima gallery to worldwide media attention and became a British front page newspaper sensation, as well as featuring on national television. The show was originally presented as a real event and managed to dupe many national newspapers in the UK before being revealed as a hoax.
The show "Fuckart & Pimp" was conceived by Alex Chappel and freelance reporter David C. West. An initial press release was sent out in April 1998 to all the newspapers and media describing the concept show, to open on 17 April: "Fuckart and Pimp" featured a Canadian artist named Angela Marshall. The gallery (the Pimp) prostitutes the artist (the Whore), and the buyer (the Punter) has to consummate the sale of a painting by performing a sexual act with Angela. It was billed as "a stark comment on the world of contemporary art", and the show would "enable both the punter and Angela to fully understand the workings of the curator-artist relationship". As The Independent reported, "A small picture will cost £25 and require oral sex; a medium-size picture is full sex, at £50 and for a large painting at £75, 'anything kinky'".
The first paper to make inquiries into the show was The Sport, and on 9 April an article titled "I like them well hung in my gallery" and a photo of a topless Angela Marshall was published. The artist was quoted as saying, "It's a way of challenging what people think is acceptable", and "I'm not doing it for money, I'm doing it for the love of art". The person interviewed, however, was actually Raine Lawson.
After The Sport covered the show, The Independent sent a reporter and photographer to the gallery to interview Angela Marshall.[who?] This time, a singer called Jules posed as the artist. The story made the front page of the paper on Friday 17 April, with a page seven feature about the artist and the show.
That same day, from 9 p.m. onwards, the Decima gallery became besieged by press reporters. Everyone from the tabloids to ITN arrived, and as they were all expecting to see an art show, one was staged. Angela Marshall[who?] arrived to the glare of lenses, "squeezed into a nine year old's leopard print leotard (she aspires to be 'in her twenties') and sporting a red rhinestone dog collar, hat, gloves, torn black stockings, topped by a blond wig and dark sunglasses", as The Scotsman reported.
The punters stayed away, "possibly deterred by the ranks of camera crews and reporters gathered outside the gallery", as The Guardian speculated. The reason for them not materialising, however, was the fact that none ever existed to begin with; thus, to curb the media hunger, a punter was invented in the form of "someone calling himself Mark Childs and claiming to be a buyer".
As The Scotsman put it, "Under a dim red light bulb, a man and two women - the second being the artist's Scottish 'assistant' Jessica Konopka - thrashed about on a dirty mattress in a pathetic pantomime copulation". On London Tonight, Mark Childs could be seen leaving the gallery with lipstick-smeared face, carrying a digitally blurred painting. The reason why the painting was digitally blurred is because it bore the lipstick scrawled slogan 'Media Cunts'.
Threatened legal action
A counter sabotage that fuelled much of the coverage was Southwark council's letter presented in full view of the cameras, 'warning that the property appeared to be being used for sexual entertainment, and that the show's curator may have committed an offence. If the exhibition continued, the gallery would be risking prosecution. This was on the evidence of the eyewitness reports of the undercover council officer who paid five pounds to watch the act through a spy hole, and was reported by The Scotsman as saying 'she's still wearing the G-string but he's got all his kit off and they're definitely at it.'
'Nick', as he was called in the article, publicly issued a warning for obscenity. Despite the insistence that the warning would not hinder the show continuing over the weekend, the pinnacle of the event had been reached and it did not continue.
Hoaxers play to the gallery
The following day, 18 April, nearly every paper reported on the event, some skeptical as to its authenticity; it was only The Daily Telegraph that actually caught on with the headline 'Hoaxers play to the gallery with sex and art show,' with a sub heading 'Tom Leonard reports on the elaborate and bizarre activities of two publicity-seekers'.
The Sunday Mirror ran a brief article on 19 April, page 20 denouncing the original story as a fake. 'Faking it in the name of art' gave a brief synopsis of the previous lengthier stories with the small inclusion of a quote: 'yesterday show organiser David West admitted, "It was a hoax...a charade."' The nationwide press were reluctant to follow up the original story with the truth, and potentially suffer embarrassment, thus, outside of the UK many were ignorant of the fact that it was a hoax.
- "The Independent", 17 & 18 April 1998
- "The Telegraph", 18 April 1998
- "The Mirror", 18 April 1998
- Cork, Richard "London Tonight", 17 April 1998
- Leonard, Tom "Hoaxers play to the gallery with sex and art show" "The Telegraph", 18 April 1998. Accessed 3 April 2007
- Watson-Smyth, Kate "A Brush with the law for artist selling sex" "The Independent", 18 April 1998. Accessed 5 April 2007