Tracey Emin: artist, fraudster or nutcase?

Being a traditional artist myself, I was wondering how people felt about modern art. I get a little annoyed when I see really good artists in the local paper or in art galleries earning pittance when people like Tracey Emin get tens of thousands of pounds for a dirty bed and a tent with cut out letters stuck onto it.

Here’s a link to some of her stuff in case you maybe haven’t seen her ‘work’ - click the thumbmails on the right:
To me, a lot of it looks like the produce of a very perverse teen. Some of it you may think looks nice but do you think that it’s worth tens of thousands of pounds?

I sometimes think I’m missing the point of it when so many people appear to appreciate it but what do other people think?

I think the same as you.

That kind of art, if we can call that art, is plain stupid. Making a damn chair with cut out letter “glued” on it just isn’t what I call art.

From my point of view, there is a large group of people who, just to look like they are “interested” in art say they like that kind of stuff. I simply can’t understand how someone can like that enough to spend 10 000$ on it…

I can’t understand why this is called art…

I agree.

With this type of thinking any person who paints a room or draws a smiley face on a piece of paper is an artist.

But there is another side I learned about in a recent art class I took. If the artists intends it to be art, then it is art. In many people’s eyes who believe this philosophy (not me) its up to what the artists says not to what a spectator/buyer thinks.

Who do you think is to blame? The so called artists or the people who buy it or are they equally to blame? I’m not sure if I’d do the same if I could sell an old tent for £40,000 but I think I’d be too ashamed to admit it belonged to me. It looks like an easy way to get money, though. Some newspapers even recreated the tent for £67.50.

If you don’t know already, a few of her works actually burned in a fire at a warehouse in London. The supposed value was over £1million along with some other modern art. Good riddance, eh?

The thing is, I’m not sure if the value is placed so much on the work itself but the bad publicity it will generate. I think that’s a terrible way to degrade art because it seems to be encouraging people to make the most vile exhibits they can. Damien Hirst, for example, displayed a cow and a shark cut in half in formaldehyde after Tracey’s exhibit. I wouldn’t mind that so much in a science museum but to display it as your own work is surely plagiarising God or whatever you believe made the animals.

More examples of his work are here:
How long do you thing those took to make?

The problem with modern art is how to appreciate it. It is often ridiculous a first glance, but dont forget :

  • there is an artistic goal behind, all this is exploring new paths
  • many of the artists you judge the work silly are very good classic painters or drawers, but art in general has elvolved past a point where classic painting is no more adequate (almost all 20th century art is past this point) and a new consensus on the form of art has not emerged yet.
  • since there is no more princes to finance artists, you need the market, and the value on this particular market is only made of reputation not quality. You can mourn on this, but not ignore it.
  • there is worse, the so-called performance art.
  • some of this is interesting.

Now, I agree that work like Tracey Emin one is pure bullshit (for me), but as long there will be a market for this, you cannot get rid of it, and you need those pieces of crap to get the good ones.

However, I’m pretty sure that future generations will have a good laugh when looking at what was considered art now.

Same here. I consider this “art” to be quite insulting.

Like religous symbols submerged in a vat of piss in then called art is just disgusting. “Art to shock” my arse.

I could understand a dirty bed to be kind of insulting to art, but if the artist considers it art then thats what it is. She may be trying to push the limits of what people will except as art, and she is doing it. And just because and artist work is a certain style, say abstract or modern it does not mean they do not have skill. I mean, look at Picaso, he could paint better than most people at the age of 11. His paintings were very realistic and well put together. But then he slowly started transforming his work and pushing the limits of art, I guess thats kind of what its about.

It all comes down the one old saying. “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.”

This is a good question.

I think the amount of money that people are prepared to spend on art is a different question to whether it is “good art” or not.

It is not unusual for patrons of the arts to shape public opinion of what is good and what is not and how much you should pay.

As far as Damien Hirst and Tracey Emin go, what seems to have put them into the international arena is Charles Saatchi and the White Cube Gallery. As soon as someone pays $1,000,000 for a someones work, everything they ever did suddenly becomes incredibly valuable.

I think Tracey Emin is very creative. Is her work “good art” - I dunno. Would I spend crazy money on her work? No. If I had that sort of money I would buy a building and turn it into an art gallery an become a patron of the arts! (I’d have a special section specially for Blender Community work too :D)

And therefore I have no respect for “art” if I see a good image, I do not think of he word art, I associate the wort “art” to strange stuff that only can have a meaning “in the eye of the beholder”.
I guess that it has to do with the fact that you can’t survive as an artist making real-world based images since photography, and in some part cg take that role. And I think that is a bit sad, since you can’t have the same freedom on any other way than painting.

personally, i approve. any art is good art, even if it is considered crap. but the point is not wether you can sell it, or wether people will buy it, just that an artist had a thought, and made it happen. maybe everything that can be done, has been done. but that is no reason not to continue exploring, and if you have to make some mistakes in the exploration, then sure, make some mistakes. it is a lot harder to make mistakes, than to sit back and criticise. if you really feel that art is crap, make some of your own. overwhelm the world with your creations. bury the crap in wonders, the like of which the world has never seen. unless criticism is an art form…

my two cents.

jim ww

I disagree, there’s a local (local to me) traditional artist who has sold his paintings for hundreds of thousands of pounds -
His butler painting was sold at auction for £745,000.

But it’s that sort of concept that leads many modern artists to produce art purely on shock value. If I decapitate someone and put their head on a spike and let the maggots devour it, it’s new, original and shocking but it could hardly be considered art.

I’ve noticed that too. It’s the same with celebrities. If they endorse one product or other then some people are encouraged to buy that same product or get the same hairstyle. But usually it’s stupid people who are susceptible to influences like that.

I don’t know how you judge creativity but I don’t think sticking cut out letters onto household objects is creative. Especially if you consider that it’s all she does for a living. If she’s on her butt all day doing nothing and that’s the best she can come up with, I award her zero credit. She uses cut-out letters in a lot of her pieces. That may be considered creative for a toddler but for a grown adult, I don’t think so.

But it’s defining who is and is not an artist that’s the problem. You could say a 13 year old kid who draws vile, sexually explicit drawings (which Tracey does) is an artist but would you see his work in a national gallery valued at thousands of pounds?

I could take the point about Picasso but he did some good work. Even if his later stuff was a bit odd, it was iconic because he was probably the first to do it. That is unlike Tracey Emin and Damien Hirst’s stuff, which has been done countless times before. I can’t recall how many times my bed has been unmade but I didn’t put it in an exhibition and call it art. Why? Not because I didn’t think about it first, it’s because it’s not art.

What persay is the goal of an old shed and what new paths is it exploring?

Again, I don’t think that because traditional painting has been around for ages that it is outdated. Even modern paint programs have filters to convert photos into paintings so the style is still popular. And there’s one thing that a computer can’t do is capture the emotions of an artist’s brushstrokes - that is one thing that made Picasso’s work good. Tracey’s work displays no passion whatsoever other than the passion that she can’t be *rsed doing a hard days work (hence the unmade bed).

Very true. Lets burn 'em all.

But that’s the point. We shouldn’t let this type of rubbish into our society in the first place because future generations will think we were idiots for considering it to be art. Are there any artists from centuries past who we could mock in the same way? I doubt it because back then talent meant something.

Well firstly, you don’t need to be an artist to be critical of one. If I drive a bad car I’ll get a better one, I won’t criticize it and expect that I’m going to have to build one of my own in order for my opinion to be taken seriously. You could say that about anything: builders build your house squint, well don’t complain, build your own house and see if you can do better - ludicrous.

I sort of agree with your point about exploring art but it’s not the fact that there are mistakes being made and we move on. It’s the fact that glaringly obvious mistakes are being made and the people making them are being rewarded for it.

If you read the bio, you’d notice the first artist who’s page you pointed to had a very traumatic life with an abortion and subsequent mental breakdown. Her art reflects the trauma she feels and thus is a reflection of herself. For people who read about her, the art carries meaning, despite its face value.

My friend Holly once painted a quick acrylic for me in art class… took less than five minutes. She called it “Ross in five minutes.” I still have that painting on my wall… it’s basically 30 or so quick brush strokes making up a simple face in different contrasting warm and cool colors, lazy eyebrows, and a hand holding the face. For me it has great meaning, because that was what she thought of me. For you, it looks like something a child could paint. Is it art? For me it is. I think it is nothing to complain about, if people want to spend their money on it it is obviously interesting. I don’t think people are dishing out tens of thousands of dollars just for the prestige of owning it… they see emotion and meaning in it, through the simplicity.

I’ve seen a lot of simple renderings here that I consider to be crap here called art as well, haven’t you?

Interesting you mention Vetriano. His work has come in for a fair bit of criticism - people saying that it is not art, it is simply populist and commercial.

I was wondering what you make of other artists such as

Jackson Pollock
Piet Mondrian
Bridget Riley
Victor Vasarely
Ad Reinhardt
Mark Rothko

Is this art?

I am myself an oil painter, realistic.

Well, Duchamp I see it more as a reaction to that society, historical moment, and…art. And a way to provoque and change things, as to create a feeling…so, yes, it is art.

All what you mentioned is art (Bridget Riley …that one I don’t know…excuse my ignorance) . (btw, the definitions of art are often a matter of arguing by them selves)

Still, I can’t give same value and consideration to a Velazquez picture than Pollock spontaneous paintings, if that’s the english word (is not my language) In general I can’t give same value to Pollock’s Action painting, Art Brut, or Abstract expresionism than to a Velazquez painting, to put an example.

(While I still think both are forms of art)

But I got really wasted (being just 4 or 5 persons doing realistic painting in all the people of my age at Fine Arts, and feeling a long “persecution” ) in my studies time of people saying things like Velazquez, Vermeer, Goya (luckily this one gets more respect) are surpassed and have no interest anymore. I think that’s ridiculous.

Also would be, saying that what Mondrian made was not art, for example.

But loads of stuff done today is random stuff to earn money and feed some dumb egos, that’s true too. There 's a big crisis in art since many, many years.

I think Tracey Emin does produce art, although her work doesn’t appeal to me: I certainly would not pay for any of it. But it compares favorably to such works as “Three Urinals Bolted To The Wall”, which is a self descriptive title and sold for something like $50,000 a decade or so ago.

Jackson Pollock is certainly a fine artist, but for some reason he doesn’t do a thing for me. But even thought I don’t like Jackson Pollock works, doesn’t mean I can’t see that it is good.

Piet Mondrian. Ahh! I can’t figure it out, but Mondrian does it for me. It looks simple, but it’s deceptive. I have a Mondrian print in my apartment, one of only two works by someone other than me that’s hung on my walls.
I’ve tried to paint in the Mondrian style, I can’t. I’ve seen others attempt the same–you have to be good to do it right and even then the originals stands out. I can’t begin to explain why I like Mondrian so much.

But what is art? How about three rocks dumped in bed of gravel? If you kneel in a Japanese Zen garden you can get completely lost in time and space, until your knees start to hurt anyway. This is an art that follows centuries of tradition and is about as simple as it can be. It turns out that it is much harder than it looks.

In the end, it comes down to what you like, what you want to live with, what your eyes like to rest on at the end of the day. If the woman who bought “Three Urinals…” is happy contemplating her plumbing fixtures, who are we to laugh at her?

I think the problem is that there are too many people using ‘art’ for gaining wealth and publicity. It is being used as a tool for a number of egotistical people to gain a sence of prestige in the world. I have to ask, “Would these ‘artists’ make any of the things that they make if they were not getting paid outragous amounts of money or being followed by sheep-like people?” I feel if there was no money, and if there were no fame, many would not concider making such junk. They’re just pimp’n out whores.

What I feel is art always has a few key points that stand out to me:

  1. It stirs interest or emotion in me
  2. It show that the artist has devoted a lot of time, effort, and care in creating it
  3. It is unique and original
  4. It is visually appealing (even ugly things can have some appeal)
  5. It is something I feel the artsit cares deeply about
  6. It would have been created with or without fame and/or money

Often I find some of my favorite artwork has been made by just hobbiests who hardly anyone even knows. Artwork that has not been used in any way to gain wealth or publicity. Some of my favorite artists are just people who create only because they love creating, and would continue doing it even if it drove them into poverty. There are countless amazing artsists throughout the world who have so much more talent than most of the widely known, pretigeous artists. They would never have TV specials about them, or special public exhibits of their work simply because they are humble anough to not seek the fame and glory – not because they don’t have the ability. They do not force their works apon the masses – drilling images into people’s minds. These are real people – real ARTISTS.

Here’s some quotes from Robert Hughes (who I think is an Australian art critic) about the relationship between money and art.

The auction room, as anyone knows, is an excellent medium for sustaining fictional price levels, because the public imagines that auction prices are necessarily real prices.

Art prices are determined by the meeting of real or induced scarcity with pure, irrational desire, and nothing is more manipulable than desire.

The idea that money, patronage and trade automatically corrupts the wells of imagination is a pious fiction, believed by some utopian lefties and a few people of genius such as (William) Blake but flatly contradicted by history itself.

On the whole, money does artists much more good than harm. The idea that one benefits from cold water, crusts and debt collectors is now almost extinct, like belief in the reformatory power of flogging.

A fair price is the highest one a collector can be induced to pay.

Ok, maybe she had a tough life but I can’t see that she is showing any evidence of her tough life in her work. Lots of women have abortions all over the country - why aren’t they making obscene drawings? If I go to the toilet and it’s a funny colour, I could well say that it portrays my emotions that day and exhibit it. But I would think that if I entered for the Turner Prize that I would be thrown out. What I want to know is what makes Tracey Emin’s waste products so much more valuable than everyone else’s?

Yeah, I suppose you could say that about the value of children’s paintings to their parents too. They have them on the fridge and they may not be considered great but they are worth a lot to the parents. But what I’m saying is that Tracey Emin’s art is not personal - it shows no emotion whatsoever. That picture Holly drew was of you and it was given to you - that’s where the meaning lies. Tracey’s stuff is just commercial and it doesn’t correlate to her life because it can be recreated by most people with or without talent.

Maybe, but I think sometimes people are conned into believing the quality of art is higher than it is because art is such a loose term. I mean, try and think laterally how anyone can see an individual’s feelings from a generically unmade bed or a generic shed. The fact is that there is no individuality in her work and the fact that people have been able to recreate it easily with no ounce of artistic talent shows that.

Not really, because the art submitted here usually has a purpose. Like the art that represents people’s names in the game Blend the person above you.

Good point GCat, Vettriano has been criticised but not because his work is bad but for the points you mentioned. I think it was said that they were too erotic also. But the fact remains that not everyone could paint at the same quality as he does and his work has meaning. As I have said many times, Tracey’s work can be reproduced by a 5 year old. BTW, I was mainly having a go at Tracey Emin alone not modern art as a whole. It’s just that it seems her style of work appears to have lowered the standard of art quality in the modern art field and many modern artists seem to be going for shock tactics alone and I don’t like it.

I’ll review the artists you mentioned, though.

Jackson Pollock: His work is all the same. Splashes and splotches of no meaning. I would say it might look nice as a wallpaper from a DIY store but I don’t think it has any artistic meaning because there are no intentionally discernable forms in his stuff. Possibly you could interpret his brush strokes as feelings but you can say the same about any painting.

Piet Mondrian: the same as for Jackson Pollock.

Bridget Riley: Some of her stuff produces optical illusions. That has purpose and so I think it is artistic.

Victor Vasarely: The same as for Bridget Riley.

Ad Reinhardt: same as for the first 2.

Mark Rothko: some of his stuff looks quite good.

The thing is that I’m not saying that all modern art is bad because it’s not. I just think that art should be something that cannot be easily recreated by someone else. Art should be made with passion and meaning and the artwork should convey that to others. Even if not at first glance but after it is explained what those emotions are.

It just angers me when people like Tracey Emin produce heartless, soulless pieces of rubbish to shock people. BTW, I haven’t yet heard anyone here who says that her stuff is any good. So, is it safe to say that modern art has a place but people who degrade it like Tracey Emin have no place being part of it?

Artwork is difficult to judge, even for professionals, but the price of a piece of artwork is easy to understand. How many rich people buy the most expensive peices of ‘art’ simply so they can say they own something more expensive than their other rich friends, and not because they really appreciate the ‘art’? This could be what blows an artist’s abilities way out of proportion – a person with money to burn and no eye for art.