Whose idea was Art School Stole My Virginity, really?

London artist says he discussed similar ideas with Clayton Pettet – but Pettet claims they've never met

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From the release for John Bingham's show Art School Stole My Sexuality John Bingham

Central Saint Martins student and performance artist Clayton Pettet has had a few stumbles on the way to bringing his controversial piece Art School Stole My Virginity to life. First there was the media storm over the 19-year-old's plan to lose his V-card in front of an audience. Then he was arrested for spraypainting promotional graffiti in east London. There was even a fake blog. In a new twist, an artist called John Bingham seems to allege that Pettet may have gotten the idea for the whole thing from him – and is staging his own piece, Art School Stole My Sexuality, in response.

"I won’t go as far to say that Clayton stole my idea for a show," a press release from Bingham reads. "But I will say that he was aware of my plans (when I shared them with him in 2010) and did well to add that flamboyant ‘Clayton Twist’ to get tongues wagging about his new performance."

Art School Stole My Sexuality is scheduled in April on the same date as Pettet's performance. According to the release, the show will feature Bingham performing sex with a male art dealer and a female artist assistant. 

Bingham, who is currently attending Wimbledon College of Art, claims that he "briefly" met Pettet at Camberwell in 2010 before speaking to him on Facebook. "As soon as editors and the press got hold of the story, I thought, 'Oh, OK,'" he told Dazed. "I was a little bit annoyed. It's the same territory."

As for how the two pieces differ, if at all? "Mine is more to do with coming to terms with sexuality and how that links to my time at art schools and working in the art world," he explains.

Pettet, meanwhile, claims that he has never met Bingham. "I don't know who this boy is," he says. "In 2010, I was in college in Brockenhurst. I didn't even do art then. I'm 19; if he sent me messages in 2010 I would have been 16 years old. This is so strange." 

According to Pettet, their first real contact took place just today, when Bingham messaged him on Facebook to ask if he was interested in doing a joint interview about their performances. (Bingham says that the request was a "sarcastic" way of letting Pettet know he was "going ahead" with his performance. 

UPDATE: Bingham insists that he first met Pettet at a 2010 degree show in Camberwell, where the former had just started a Foundation degree. "I'm not sure why he doesn't want to say that. I don't think he wants any attention taken away from him," he says, although he does acknowledge that "it was a long time ago, like four years ago". 

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