Artist, writer (his autobiography Dandy in the Underworld is unmissable),  journalist and larger-than-life legend Sebastian Horsley sadly passed away in June 2010 from a suspected overdose.

The Outsiders Gallery presents an overdue exhibition of the work of this noted libertine and dandy.

Horsley was a familiar albeit occasionally somewhat unnerving sight around Soho from the time he moved from Yorkshire to study at St Martin’s College in the early 80s until his death in 2010. He was famously denied entry to the US in 2008 because of ‘moral turpitude’. 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.

The exhibition will feature paintings from Horsley’s solo shows The Flowers of Evil (a reference to Baudelaire’s collection of poetry, Les Fleurs du Mal) and Crucifixion alongside photographic self-portraits, personal effects and the film of his crucifixion in the Philippine Islands. The title of the show is a tongue-in-cheek reference to Horsley’s consummate appetite for prostitutes, which he infamously wrote about in The Observer. His flat was at 7 Meard Street, and his neighbours (who were possibly less enchanted with the constant to-ing and fro-ing of ladies of the night) all had somewhat prissy placards put up on their front doors stating that there are no prostitutes here…

Sebastian Horsley Flowers of Evil

Sebastian Horsley Flowers of Evil

Writing in The Times, critic Brian Appleyard described Horsley’s flower paintings as ‘an attempt to reinvest art with beauty, urgency and power.’

Horsley’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. Somewhat out of character, Horsley refused the recommended painkillers and fell unconscious with pain. When the cross was raised the footrest beneath him broke and he fell from it. Only his crucifier tried to help him – the crowds were superstitious. The Daily Telegraph called it ‘the most literal exercise in suffering since Van Gogh cut off his ear.’

Sebastian Horsley Crucifixion 5

Sebastian Horsley Crucifixion 5

The Whoresley Show remains a celebration of the man’s life in general: to quote his fellow sociable epicurean Catallus: ‘Our host decrees no water here.’

Sebastian Horsley | The Whoresley Show
9th August – 14th September 2013
The Outsiders Gallery
8 Greek Street,
London W1D 4DG
+44 (0) 203 214 0055 / 0066
Open Monday – Saturday, 11am – 7pm

Admittance is free

Words by Anna Bang


anna bang, Sebastian Horsley, The Outsiders Gallery,