Art Newspaper / Issue 150 / September 2004

By: Louisa Buck


More controversy seems, literally, to be rising from the ashes of the Momart fire, with the recent rumpus surrounding a work of art made by a young, Bournemouth-based artist using the debris salvaged from the site of the blaze which, on 23 May, devastated works by many of the UK's leading artists. Stuart Semple's "RIP YBA" consists of lumps of melted metal and what may or may not be a scrap of Tracey Emin's tent, housed in eight perspex boxes which have been painted and embellished with collaged reproductions by the 23-year old artist. However it was not Semple who salvaged the burnt offerings from the site of Momart's Leytonstone warehouse but celebrity spoon-bender Uri Geller, who is acting as Semple's agent. Driven by what he describes as " a personal mission of instant archaeology", Mr Geller visited the site "with a shovel and a roll of garden bin-liners" where he claims he found no security in evidence and was directed by the site foreman to help himself to whatever he could find. But, despite Mr Geller's best efforts, "RIP YBA" has been politely declined by Tate and the prestigious Gimpel Fils Gallery, which was poised to give Semple a solo exhibition in its new project space has now canceled, on grounds of taste, declaring RIP YBA "very problematic". But all is not lost: Semple's frisky post-pop paintings have found a considerable champion in the form of Anthony D'Offay who has whisked his portfolio to New York, while Mr Geller has found more success focusing his art dealing attentions on the rock n'roll circuit where Dave Stewart, Debbie Harry, and Robin Gibb are now happy owners of his young protege's oeuvre.