In 2001, a British artist began spray-painting the black and white outline of a human — composed of just six lines and two dots — on walls around east London. He adopted the name STIK, in reference to the simple shape of his figures, in order to cloak his identity.
Nineteen years later, STIK has come full circle, now working with the council that once scrubbed away his images. Last month, the artist installed a huge, new public commission called Holding Hands in the middle of Hoxton Square — a stone’s throw from some of his earliest street paintings.
On 23 October, Christie’s in London is offering the original, unique bronze maquette for the monumental sculpture, with the proceeds set to fund a socially inclusive programme of outdoor art across the borough of Hackney.
STIK (b. 1979), Holding Hands (Maquette), 2020. Bronze with black patina on artist’s limestone base. Sculpture: 39⅞ x 31⅝ x 1in (101.3 x 80.2 x 2.6 cm). Overall: 62½ x 31⅝ x 22⅝ in (158.9 x 80.2 x 57.6 cm). Estimate: £80,000-120,000. Offered in Post-War & Contemporary Art Day Sale on 23 October 2020 at Christie’s in London
Created over three years by STIK, the 12-foot-high bronze depicts two of his ageless, genderless and raceless figures joined hand in hand. Feet firmly rooted in the park’s grass, with space for visitors to pass between their legs, one looks westwards towards the city centre, while the other gazes east across the treetops.
The work’s theme is clear: love and unity in an era when social distancing and stormy politics are pulling us apart. And its timing couldn’t be more poignant as attitudes towards inclusivity in public statues evolve.
The location of Holding Hands is also significant, highlighting the possibility of alternative platforms for art as nearby galleries and museums struggle during the Covid-19 pandemic. It emphasises the idea that art can be egalitarian, accessible to everyone.
STIK’s Holding Hands in Hoxton Square, east London, 2020
STIK’s work has always had a conscience. His 2014 work Big Mother, which was Britain’s tallest mural until it was torn down, was painted on the side of a block of council flats, highlighting vulnerable families’ need for social housing.
It often has a charitable element, too. In 2016 Christie’s auctioned a set of artist proofs of his Sleeping Baby screenprints. These sold for £32,500, with the money going to Hackney’s Homerton Hospital. Two years later, he donated the wooden sculpture Up on the Roof to Christie’s, where it sold for £150,000. The proceeds went to Cardboard Citizens, a theatre group which works with people affected by homelessness.
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The money raised from Christie’s sale of Holding Hands (Maquette) will fund a series of outdoor artworks. The winning bidder will effectively become the patron of Hackney Council’s new public sculpture programme — a lifeline to the arts community at a time when artists are being told to reskill and galleries and museums are being forced to close. It is hoped that a new generation of diverse and underfunded artists will benefit.
STIK’s Holding Hands (Maquette), which has been consigned by Hackney Council, is on view at Christie’s King Street galleries until 22 October, ahead of its auction in the Post-War and Contemporary Art Day Sale on 23 October.