George Condo Short Stories Competition

The George Condo: Mental States Short Stories Competition is now OPEN!

We are inviting you to create 300 word short pieces of fiction, inspired by George Condo’s outlandish  yet heart-rending paintings, and will be judged by George Condo and Hayward Gallery Director, Ralph Rugoff.  The winning entrant will receive limited edition George Condo: Mental States playing cards, a signed catalogue and free tickets to one of Southbank Centre’s creative writing courses in 2012.

The competition is inspired by the fantasy characters of  Condo’s portraits, and in particular his painting ‘The Psychoanalytic Puppeteer Losing His Mind’, which following a meeting with Salman Rushdie in 2001, led to a description of the painted figure to appear in his novel ‘Fury’

Here is an example short story, by Emily Webb, inspired by Skinny Jim.

Croaking Through The Weeds

Black dots on the trousers. She knew something was missing. Now she’d noticed it, she felt irrationally irritated by the clown’s subtly mismatched costume; pantaloons conspicuously void of the black dots scattered between insipid pastel blotches on the oversized top, drawing her eye away from his mediocre magic tricks. Perhaps that was it. Didn’t clowns always try and distract from their slights of hand? Not that distraction was a problem; the kids seemed distinctly unimpressed with this middle-aged pretender, more excited by the mechanical, back-flipping dog he’d just drawn from a top hat (live rabbits being, she assumed, a health and safety hazard these days).

She should obsess less. Too much time to think. But could she cope with her sister’s life, all children’s birthdays and runny noses and ketchup half wiped from the high chair? She battled with an orange, digging her fingers into its waxy resistance and releasing the skin’s musty, tangy smell. Something to do with her hands; she’d kill for a cigarette. Suddenly the squealing and thumping around her was too much. She abandoned the orange, oozing juice onto a cheap paper plate, and escaped into the garden.

Hopeful plants and ubiquitous weeds surrounded the squalid pond, the best assimilation of nature’s beauty this suburban neighbourhood could offer. She watched a lethargic frog lollop from the black tarpaulin into the water.

“Got a lighter?” A gruff voice behind her. The clown had finished his shift.

“Sorry, I’ve given up.”

She had the involuntary urge to grab the offending cigarette packet and chuck it into the pond. He seemed to notice the perfunctory reflex of her hand. They stood for a moment, held by the slight social oddity of the movement. The frog croaked, back up for air, echoing the clown’s guttural throat-clearing as he turned and left her to her cravings.

Here is the information on how to enter the competition:

  • 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 here, on the Hayward Gallery blog:
  • NEW: All entrants will receive a limited edition George Condo: Mental States notepad
  • NEW: The best 30 entries will be published with writers permission) on the Ether Books short stories app. Click here to find out more about Ether Books

George Condo, Skinny Jim, 2009, Private Collection. Image courtesy Luhring Augustine © the artist

16 Responses

  1. Am VERY excited about this initiative. VERY excited. Would love the opportunity to do this for Pipilotti Rist too as my imagination is awash with short stories whenever I pop round to the Hayward for her work. Maybe have a Fringe Competition running next to the Condo Main ‘Un? A sort of mini mini-storied thing? Tweet-length?

  2. […] Hayward Gallery have come up with a super-inspiring short-story writing competition to coincide with their George Condo retrospective. I think this would make a great night out for […]

  3. Love this! Haven’t written a short novel in ages and this opportunity really inspired me to write. I went to the exhibit yesterday and wrote my story last nite, couldn’t wait to write it. The quirky humor and all the darkness is just me on the spot! Will sit on my text for a day or two, read it with fresh eyes and email across. Sus x

  4. Glad you’re all inspired to pen your stories! Have you submitted them yet?

    • Yeah, I sent mine to a couple of days ago. Did it go through to you?
      By the way, is there a particular painting that we should write about? I wrote with the “exhibition poster” picture in mind and to me that is a woman… but looking back, i don’t think it is…😀
      Is that a problem?
      Best Wishes

      • Great stuff. It is entirely up to you which painting you write about and how you interpret it.

        The exhibition poster is titled ‘Jesus’ – whether that is a man or a woman, again, is up to you to decide!

        Good luck

      • Ok, cool!

        And it’s about time to start to think of Jesus as a woman now!
        No better place and time to do so than at a Gorge Condo exhibit!

        X Susanna

  5. Excellent idea – and great excuse to visit the Hayward -as if you need one!

  6. Hi – a great challenge! When will the results be published (I ask because I will be away from 27th December to 8th Jan)? Will there be an awards event, if so, when?

    • We will be adding stories to the blog next week so keep your eyes out to see if yours gets featured

      • The end of the week approaches.
        Total silence on result of competition,
        no stories or anything else published
        on blog since submission date.
        Many of us are in a
        Mental State

  7. Sent my entry as an attached .doc on the pip of noon on 18 Dec. Fingers crossed it doesn’t fall into the spam folder – you never can tell with attached docs! I was hugely inspired by ALIEN ABDUCTION, and unsure whether we had to restrain ourselves to the fine paintings currently exhibited. Decided to go with the picture that affected me the most.

    Good luck to us all!

  8. No results so far. It is very interesting to learn about them. I am looking forward.

  9. Hi all,

    Happy New Year. Thank you all for your entries, we were really chuffed with the standard of writing and the variety in style, so congratulations to you all.

    Those who made the shortlist of 30 to be published on Ether Books have been alerted and are now available to download from the Ether Books iPhone app.

    The final 10 are with George and Ralph right now, from which they’ll select a final 5 which will be published on the blog, and then a winner will be notified before the end of the week.

    Please keep your eyes peeled.

    Thanks once again, and good luck.


    • Hi,
      I wonder if you could help me. I’ve been reading the Hayward Gallery Competition, George Condo ‘Mental States’on my iphone app but only seem able to access 14 of the 30 writers short listed. Could you tell me how to access the other 16?
      Best wishes

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