The Church of Scientology has been accused of using British artists as a front for recruiting members.
The Stuckist movement, which rails against conceptual art, is in turmoil over claims that sales of its artists’ paintings are effectively funding Scientology, a religious sect accused of brainwashing its followers.
The row has led to disquiet among artists as far afield as Germany.
Charles Thomson, who founded the Stuckist movement in Britain, admitted to the Evening Standard he was wrong to give the go-ahead to a Stuckist exhibition at a London art gallery run by a practising Scientologist.
He is among several Stuckists showing their work at the A Gallery in Wimbledon, whose proprietor is 28-year-old Fraser Kee Scott.
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Mr Thomson accused Mr Kee Scott of using the exhibition to promote Scientology, which was created by the American science fiction writer L Ron Hubbard and counts Tom Cruise and John Travolta among its supporters.
He said that in at least one publicity interview the gallery owner was supposed to promote the show, but he talked about Scientology instead.
“It is outrageous he is promoting an art show but talking about Scientology,” said Mr Thomson.
“I feel we have been tricked. We said we want nothing to do with Scientology but we are now being associated with it.
“It puts us in a very difficult position because we were promised the gallery is run as a commercial venture but he can’t seem to stop talking about Scientology. He is a nice guy and is genuine but it is pissing us off.”
Another exhibitor, Paul Harvey, was angry that one of his paintings could be seen in a photograph of Mr Kee Scott that accompanied an interview in which he talked about the church.
“I feel my work was being used without my permission to promote Scientology,” he said.
Peter Klint, a leading German Stuckist, said it was “very dangerous” for artists to co-operate with Mr Kee Scott.
“Money earned through art sales at A Gallery goes, more or less directly, to Scientology. That’s why I’d never show my paintings there and why I don’t want my name to be put in any relation to Mr Kee Scott and the A Gallery.
“Mr Kee Scott is very active in fishing for new Scientologists. He uses A Gallery and his four MySpace accounts for these purposes.” Mr Kee Scott, who is open about his religious beliefs, denied using the artists to promote Scientology,
He insisted he was dedicated to selling their work, saying he had been very successful at this, but refused to say whether profits from the gallery went to the sect.
Responding to Mr Thomson, he said: “Charles is a good friend of mine, there won’t be a problem. It isn’t even an issue. I am sitting here and I am promoting artists all day. That is what I do. It comes down to results. It’s as simple as that.”
Mr Kee Scott, who joined the church during a trip to Los Angeles in 2001, admitted he hosts Scientology workshops at his gallery about twice a week.
A bookshelf at the gallery in Merton Hall Road is dedicated to the works of Hubbard, which he sells alongside pieces of art such as the £30,000 sculpture sold in the US last week.
Mr Kee Scott said: “L Ron Hubbard’s book, Art, shows how he knew the importance of artists. He did everything he could to help artists.”
He claimed the work of even great artists could be improved if they took on board the teachings of Scientology and improved their ” emotional tone”.
“Take Francis Bacon – I think his emotional tone is all fear,” he said.
“Basically if you really, truly help somebody, their emotions come up and they produce more and do more.”
Mr Kee Scott also railed against psychiatry and anti-depressants, favourite targets of the church, which believes extra-terrestrials were brought to earth in a spacecraft millions of years ago and then blown up by hydrogen bombs but their souls stuck to the bodies of humans.
He took part in a Stuckist demonstration outside the Tate in 2005 when he attempted to persuade Isabella Blow, the fashion stylist who died of a drugs overdose earlier this month, that Scientology could help with her emotional problems.
Last week, the BBC’s Panorama programme claimed the sect brainwashed its followers, encouraged them to sever ties with their families and took their money. Scientologists vehemently denied the allegations.