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George Condo mental states exhibition prompts Hayward Gallery short fiction competition


Hayward Gallery, Southbank Centre

Until 8 January 2012

George Condo mental states exhibition

George Condo mental states exhibition

To coincide with their current exhibition; George Condo: Mental States, a short story competition has been launched by the Hayward Gallery. The inspiration for the competition comes from the fantasy characters that reside in Condo’s portraits, and in particular those that appear in his painting ‘The Psychoanalytical Puppeteer Losing His Mind’. After meeting with Salman Rushdie in 2001, a description of the figure appeared in Rushdie’s novel ‘Fury’.

The Hayward Gallery wants the public to create short works of fiction which are 300 words long, and inspired by Condo, who will be judging the contest along with the director of the Hayward Gallery, Ralph Rugoff. The best of the stores will be published online on the Hayward Gallery Blog and the winner will receive, amongst other prizes, a signed catalogue and limited edition playing cards by George Condo.

George Condo spoke at the opening of his exhibition at the Hayward Gallery and said of the collaboration with Rushie that the narratives of his paintings are entirely subjective to the individual viewer. He also said that he thought it was a great idea for a writer to sit down along with one of his paintings and try and put down in words what was happening on the canvas. Condo added that it had resulted in an entire chapter of Fury being dedicated to the painting and he loved that his characters have another life.

In the Portraiture section of the Mental States exhibition are works from all periods of the artist’s career, including nine of Condo’s portraits of Her Majesty The Queen and a series of 10 sculptural heads all cast in bronze, nine of which have a gilded surface.  More than 30 paintings with a variety of styles and subjects are presented in a ‘portrait wall’ dramatically hung floor to ceiling in a salon style. Featuring a range of fantasy characters, these portraits often incorporate elements from masterpieces by artists including Velázquez and Goya. The characters are recognisable archetypes – butlers, businessmen, clergy and biblical figures – familiar despite their humorously grotesque features.

Condo’s approach to making art unsettlingly conjoins the beautiful and the grotesque, seriousness and outlandish wit. His portraits, which for all their oddness and outrageous humour and their caricatured features, are deeply immersed in the traditions of European and American painting. Focusing on his ‘imaginary portraits’, which conjure varied mental states with a mixture of absurdity and pathos, the exhibition also features portraits of historical subjects such as Jesus and the Madonna, exploring the breadth of Condo’s artistic vision.

This Hayward Gallery exhibition is the first major retrospective in the UK of the American artist George Condo. Condo emerged in New York’s influential East Village art scene in the early 80s with his ‘fake Old Master’ canvases. He has since created one of the most adventurous, imaginative, and provocative bodies of work in contemporary art. George Condo: Mental States is the first major survey of paintings and sculptures from the past twenty-eight years of the artist’s career.

About George Condo

American artist George Condo was born in New Hampshire. He has occupied a prominent position in the art world for nearly three decades. Along with painters such as Keith Haring and Jean Michel Basquiat, Condo was active in the influential East Village art scene during the 1980s.  Condo studied art history and music theory at the University of Massachusetts I Lowell.

The first public exhibition including his work took place in New York City in 1981 and he has since exhibited extensively in the United States and Europe. His works have been acquired by museum collections including the Museum of Modern Art, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, and the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York. George Condo also works across fashion, music and street culture.

He has collaborated with Kanye West on the rapper’s latest album cover design, as well as on a series of limited edition silk scarves (with design duo M/M Paris). Last autumn, characters from Condo’s paintings came to life during the catwalk show of New York fashion designer Adam Kimmel, during which the models wore masks designed by the artist.

George Condo: Mental States is organised by the Hayward Gallery, Southbank Centre and curated by Hayward Director, Ralph Rugoff. The exhibition was shown previously at the New Museum, New York and Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen, Rotterdam.  After the Hayward Gallery it will travel to Schirn Kunsthalle, Frankfurt (22 February – 28 May 2012).

The exhibition is accompanied by a fully illustrated catalogue featuring essays by Ralph Rugoff and Laura Hoptman, Curator at the Museum of Modern Art and contributions by the writers Will Self and David Means. ISBN 978 1 85332 289 1 Special exhibition price £24.99 (RRP £34.99).  A highly collectible set of playing cards featuring portraits selected by Ralph Rugoff and the artist is available at Southbank Centre shops and online at £12.50.

In the lower galleries of the Hayward the first major UK survey show of the pioneering video artist Pipilotti Rist opened on 28 September 2011.  Separate press release available.

Competition information


  • Short story submissions should be emailed to with ‘George Condo Short Story Competition’ in the subject line.
  • All stories must be original fiction and no more than 300 words long.
  • The deadline for the competition is 6pm on 18 December 2011.
  • The authors of those stories shortlisted for the overall prize will be alerted by email. Due to the volume of submissions, the Hayward Gallery may not be able to reply to all entries.
  • The winning short stories will be posted on the Hayward Gallery blog:

Listings information

George Condo: Mental States opens on 18 October 2011 and runs until 8 January 2012 at the Hayward Gallery, Southbank Centre, Belvedere Road, London SE1 8XX

Information and tickets: 0844 847 9910

Ticket Prices:

Joint ticket prices for George Condo: Mental States and Pipilotti Rist

Full Price                                              £10.00

Seniors 60+                                          £9.00

Concessions                                        £8.00

Students                                               £8.00

Young People (12 -18)                         £7.50

Under 12’s (out of school hours)           Free

Southbank Centre Members                 Free

All prices include a £1 voluntary donation in support of the Hayward Gallery and Southbank Centre through the Gift Aid Scheme.



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