Vivien Lash on ‘Scarlet Goth’ Sebastian Horsley
No one goes to a PV to look at the art, especially when the show is a celebration of decadent artist Sebastian Horsley who was famously crucified for his art with glitter nails at the millennium in the Philippines.
Being nailed to the cross without opiates is a true vocation – or totes bonkers. Either way unsaintly Sebastian’s daring act makes Tracey Emin’s condom soiled bed seem as risky as Auntie Nellie’s on the maid’s day off. You can almost hear Sebastian raise his crack pipe and say, ‘Blow some gas out of your pompous ass, Trace.’
Given that the dress code to his retrospective, Whoresley at the Outsider’s Gallery in Soho, was Dress Dandy; the crowd were a disappointment. Poor Sebastian must have been reclining on his chaise-longue in hell, with a silk mask shielding his eyes from dirty trainers and bodies which could benefit from less beer and more calorie free debauchery.
I wore the Chinese red silk dress I had on when I met the Scarlet Goth who got a slap for touching me inaapropriately to verify the authenticity of the fabric. He begged me to slap him again with my small white hand and blood red fingernails which perhaps reminded him of being crucified. His crucifixion nails are on display at the Outsider’s gallery but disappointing clean of blood.
He died in 2010, possibly by his own needle, though Horsley’s friends do not believe he committed suicide. He would have left a note.
Horsley’s autobiography, Dandy in the Underworld, is possibly his suicide note. A hilarious and heartbreaking love letter to himself, his story includes incest, love affairs with prostitutes – one of whom was the main beneficiary of his estate – and a perverse relationship with a notorious murderer who reinvented himself as an artist after release from ‘life’ imprisonment.
Horsley had escaped his wealthy family in the neanderthal north for St Martin’s Art School and lived in London’s Soho for most of his life, with a sign on his front door:
‘This is not a brothel. There are no prostitutes at this address.’
Though Horsley did write a poem which begins, ‘I sold my bum in Soho…’
With a life like that who needs art? Yet Sebastian Horsley’s paintings are almost good. He could maybe have been a first rate painter with a bit of hard work. But he didn’t have time for early nights, his life was his art – the touchingly vulgar suits and hats, the decadent habits that seem charmingly old-fashioned in a world where people exercise and drink water to excess. As Shallow Not Stupid Sebastian said,’My fate lies not in the stars but in a star – myself.’
Death is never far away from glamour for a Soho aesthete. To quote from the Horsley’s mouth, ‘Soho used to be dirty sex and clean air. Now it’s clean sex and bad air.’
The Whoresley Show The Outsiders 8 Greek St Soho London 9th August – 14th September 2013