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Sebastian Horsley - The Whoresley Show

Exhibition preview

THE OUTSIDERS is presenting an overdue exhibition of the work of noted libertine, dandy, writer and artist Sebastian Horsley – from August 9 to September 14, 2013.

Sebastian was a pillar of the Soho community from the time he moved from Yorkshire to study at St Martin’s College in the early 1980s until his sad demise in 2010.

A retrospective in the heart of London’s most colourful district fits as sharply as one of his trademark velvet suits, an especially sartorial example of which will be on display. Guests will be encouraged to dress the part.

The exhibition will feature paintings from Sebastian’s highly publicised solo shows The Flowers of Evil and Crucifixion alongside photographic self-portraits, personal effects and the film of said crucifixion in the Philippine Islands.

The Whoresely Show is monickered after Sebastian’s consummate affection for prostitutes, about which he infamously wrote in The Observer newspaper.

Sebastian’s flower paintings brood with menace, reminding viewers that nature’s charm masks an ancient, indefatigable force. Each has been described as “a fresh assault on the impossible; their aim to capture a sense of the void, that haunting moment where violence and beauty merge.”

Painterly and lavish, let alone spiritual, in a manner considered highly unsuitable by the art establishment at the time, they are testament to Sebastian’s dauntlessness and breadth of imagination. Writing in The Times, critic Brian Appleyard described Sebastian’s flower paintings as “an attempt to reinvest art with beauty, urgency and power.”

Sebastian’s millennial show Crucifixion was his piece de resistance. In 2000, he took part in the Good Friday rituals of the northern Filipino villages. Each year volunteers undergo self-flagellation and time spent hanging nailed to a cross, in a ceremony highly frowned upon by the church and local government. Microphones carry the screams of the penitent across a crowd of gawping tourists as nails are hammered through their feet and hands.

Sebastian refused recommended painkillers and fell unconscious with pain. When the cross was raised, the footrest beneath him broke and he fell from it, his body limp, only his crucifier tried to help him – crowds were superstitious. The Daily Telegraph called it “the most literal exercise in suffering since Van Gogh cut off his ear.”

Employing the same opulent palette as The Flowers of Evil, the Crucifixion paintings bear a weighty sense of final judgement and catharsis. Number Five features Sebastian’s body hanging from the gibbet wreathed in phoenix-feather orange, yellow and red.

Whilst Sebastian pursued the romantic ideal of an excessive lifestyle, his paintings on display will be a grave reminder of his artistic merit. But The Whoresely Show remains a celebration of the man’s life in general: to quote his fellow sociable epicurean Catallus: “Our host decrees no water here.”

The Outsiders, 8 Greek Street, Soho, London, W1D 4DG

Tel +44 (0)203 214 0055/66

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