Tracey Emin: artist, fraudster or nutcase?

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?


There’s some interesting thoughts and opinions about all this here (the comments start about half way down the page):[quote][/quote]


So can you you explain the artistic value of a badly scribbled drawing of a woman and a dismembered penis on the ground? Or perhaps you can see some insight into what she was getting at by unfolding a pop-up tent and pasting cut-out letters on it spelling out names of her past lovers (poor devils).

I can hear people saying that she deserves a place in Modern Art but no reason why. Does no-one want to step up and defend her work?

I agree with Waffler, art should have passion, soul and meaning and hers has none.

A lonnnnnnggggggerrrrrrr reply…

I disagree with your comment because there is great danger in censoring art. The url link I posted above contains some thoughtful replies about the stuff you are talking about, some of which you will probably agree with, some you may not. One of the comments which I thought was particularly relevant was this:

I will end with a story of an artist who did a painting of women that was considered to be so horrific and offensive to the human form, that the artist rolled it up and put away for years. This artist then unveiled the piece again and it sparked one of the greatest and most accepted and respected eras of art. Does anyone know who I’m talking about yet? Yes, Picasso. And the piece that inspired the ‘cubist’ era of art was “Les demoiselles d’Avignon”. Imagine if he had kept it rolled up and never shown it.

This current show and art should not be censored, it should be discussed, as it is here. People have the right to their opinions. They DO NOT have the right to censor, shut down, degrade or devalue others’ opinions.

Art seems to bring together complex questions about money, culture and censorship. And Tracy Emin’s work if nothing else forces us to think. If that was all she was doing then she has clearly been very successful.

Creative expression is fluid and dynamic I think. A work of art is simply a passing place or a marker in time. Maybe it will inspire something truly amazing in someone else, maybe not. Maybe the artist will develop and refine what they do next, maybe not. Only time will tell.

In Tracy Emin’s case, I think it is impossible to separate out the money issue… although it would be useful to try I think. I do not think she is a fraudster - as she did not decide (afaik) to charge ridiculous amount of money for the bed. I would guess that one should infact focus the frustration / irritation (or whatever) on the person who decided to spend the money.

If we take away the money question just for the moment, what have we got left? There are lots of answers to this… including “Crap”, “something I could have done but I would have done it better” etc etc. However, I think shbaz made a comment on this earlier

shbaz wrote:

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.

Here, we come across the fine line between “therapeutic expression” - working on personal trauma through a creative medium vs making a piece of art. A very fine line I would guess - think of Rothko or van Gogh, for instance. And as shbaz says, maybe some of her work speaks to other people / resonates with their experiences of life (maybe it doesn’t, I don’t know). If it does, then I would recognise that as a worthwhile outcome for a piece of art even if say, I personally do not get the message.

Effort: I’m curious as to how much effort was put into this too. Somehow, the idea of effort / struggle forms part of our judgement about whether something is artistic or not. If Tracy Emin spent 30 seconds coming up with some half baked idea and thinking “I’ll rip the buggers off with this one ha ha ha”, then yes, I think all of our effort would be spent on wondering why some silly bugger spent hpwever many zillions on it rather than on what the work says to them. Infact the issue here surely is “Are we being conned?” or who is conning who?

However, the problem is that the effort (ie creative process) is hidden from us. Not only that, but quite often words when used in the context of art are often inappropriate, too long, and cannot be relied upon. Trust in the artist is key - and my judgement from bits and pieces I’ve seen is that she is fairly honest. Maybe in “the bed” she tries to tell us something about her experience of life / existence. Who knows? Maybe who cares?

last thoughts, the only reason we know about Tracy Emin is cause someone decided to pay mega bucks for her work. Was it a bargain? You might want to ask what their motivation was in doing so. Clearly Tracy Emin is one very lucky and very rich person.

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?

Wow, it pains me to have to argue for Tracey Emin because I intensely dislike her work. In fact, it is safe to say that I agree with about 75% of what you are saying. But the fact that her work does not speak to either of us, or cause any emotional resonance, or appears to be devoid of artistic value, does not mean that it is not art.

Apparently there are people out there who do appreciate her work, who do find an uplifting emotional response. And those are the people that Emin talks to, so to speak.

So I think it is a little over the top to say she ‘degrades’ art. Art is very personal, both for the creator and the observer and there is plenty of room for many different types of art and interpretations.

Now whether or not her work is worth what she gets for it is another story. It seems that the Business of Art is (almost) entirely separate from Art – there is a dissonance between artists who get paid a lot of money and artists who deserve to get paid a lot of money. But there’s a LOT of room for disagreement over who deserves what.

And I also suspect that most of the people who are paying outrageous sums for Tracey Emin’s work believe that they are making an investment – and they will most likely be very disappointed when her work does not appreciate in value. But I could be wrong.

I am beginning to feel uncomfortable with how people are defining the term ‘art.’ It seems there are many people who want the word ‘art’ to be entirely devoid of meaning. When art has no meaning, anything could be called ‘art.’ Even my toenail clippings could be called art if I choose to. What is more or less artistic becomes impossible to judge, as a pile of dog poo becomes no difforent than the Monalisa. I don’t like the idea of anything just becomming art because somebody claims it is. Would anyone serously take the claim that two pages of incomprehensable gibberish, full of spelling and gramatical errors, is a great novel? No. Of course not. Not even if the writer says it is.

As far as people supporting the works of people like Tracey Emin, what ever happened to the saying, “Art is in the eye of the beholder?” If people want to tear her works apart and call them garbage instead of art, isn’t that their own right? I don’t like the idea of someone else telling me what is art. I want to make that dissision on my own. I don’t want to blinding accept everything just to prevent anyone from becomming upset with my opinions.

Of course, I do not feel art should be ‘censored.’ That is just not right. But people should be able to seriously hate a ‘work of art’ and simply say that they do not concider it as being art. Someone else may concider it as art; that is their own dissision, but I know what I feel is art when I see a peice of art that means something to me. Just because someone else says it’s art, doesn’t mean I will ever think that it really is art.

AS I’ve got it, anything can be considered art. If you wan’t you can pick up the first stone you see and place it on a plate and call it art.
I think you are fighting a lost war if you want to give art a higher meaning than that.

That’s a good point. If I was to say that one piece of art didn’t deserve a place then I’m effectively saying that my opinion of it should determine who should be allowed to see it and I guess that would be wrong. However, censorship must exist somewhere. Imagine that I produce an image of a child engaging in a violent, sexual act and try to display it publicly. I could argue that it is art because lets say I was abused as a child and the picture shows my anger towards that, but I’m sure that people would attempt to censor it because of its inherent obscenity.

Lets go for an ‘artistic’ image and say I scrawl the words “I despise black people!” in black paint on a white canvas. Some may say that it’s art because of the fact that the words are painted in black and therefore it is ironic that the black paint is displaying the message that is so demeaning to black people whereas the white canvas is neutral. Is it art because I say so? Would you try to censor it? If so, why would you censor it and not Tracey Emin’s work?

I think that art should have freedom of expression but there must be limits to how far it can go.

I will end with a story of an artist who did a painting of women that was considered to be so horrific and offensive to the human form, that the artist rolled it up and put away for years. This artist then unveiled the piece again and it sparked one of the greatest and most accepted and respected eras of art. Does anyone know who I’m talking about yet? Yes, Picasso. And the piece that inspired the ‘cubist’ era of art was “Les demoiselles d’Avignon”. Imagine if he had kept it rolled up and never shown it.

From a personal point of view, I don’t think I would miss cubism if that painting had never been shown. But it’s true that unique and new art forms should not be suppressed. However, Tracey Emin’s art is not new. That’s the point I’m making. I have been to school and seen teens draw obscene pictures, I have been a student and seen many an unmade bed and I have been to boat huts and camping sites and seen many huts and tents. I’ve never in my life come across cubism because it’s not a natural occurrence, it’s a method of human expression.

But surely it’s what we are made to think about that’s important. Art shouldn’t make us ponder whether the art deserves to exist or not, it should make us think about the passion behind it. If you go into a traditional gallery, there will be long discussions about the blend of colours used and the dexterity of the artist when making the image - it’s all about passion. At the unmade bed (which had used condoms and dirty underwear on it BTW), people will say things like “it’s worth how much?!?” and “I could have done that” and “that’s vile”.

It’s the ‘maybe not’ that I’m afraid of. That people will be led to think that art is no longer about feeling but that any old worthless junk can be labelled art and sold for hundreds of thousands of pounds. That’s what I mean when I say it degrades art. You may be right, it may inspire others to do something better but I would think in the sense that people will see her work and consider it as the lowest standard art should be allowed to reach (assuming it is art at all, of course).

Yes, I partly agree with you there. But if there is a person in a market stall selling pirate dvds beside legal retailers and they look genuine, do you prosecute the public for buying the dvds or the seller? In the case of the art, they are both to blame because they both can see the work for what it is. I do think that the totally irrational value is down to the buyer, though, so I do think they should be shot too. :slight_smile:

That’s true, for all we know, the Mona Lisa might only have taken a day or so to paint. But again there must be something conveyed in the piece that gives it value. Now, I’ve come across a site, which is supposed to convey the meaning of the unmade bed:

This is yet another thing that annoys me in art is the blatant use of meaningless descriptions used to justify a piece as having some sort of credibilty. In the above link about the bed, we have:

“The bloody tampon echoes Judy Chicago’s Red Flag in which she photographed herself removing a tampon”

Well doesn’t every used tampon echo this then? There are works of art in buckets up and down the land, messages that feminism is still being oppressed by the chauvinistic oppression of men (represented by the buckets). Quickly ladies, store your used tampons in a safe place and show the world that feminism lives on!

“The linen is both rumpled and smoothed, bright white and stained”

What a coincidence, so is my bed. Who wants to buy it? I’ll only charge £10,000 - relatively it’s a bargain.

What about the title “My Bed” - surely that’s got some deep meaning, no?:

“The title too suggests ownership, someone to whom the bed belongs and who is, for many, the artist herself”

Ok, now the state of the bed:

“Within this logic, the bed has a social life, its tousled state suggesting occupation by figures who have departed or disappeared, its objects the possessions of the artist or left with her by another missing person, perhaps the man who wore the underpants.”

Also, to combat the fact that everyone has an unmade bed:

“If Emin’s art is no longer viewed as exclusively personal, can it be seen as multi-vocal?”

WTF? I’ll finish by giving you the deep insight and meaning Tracey Emin places upon her valued piece and I’ll let you judge if she’s a fraudster:

“As Emin (quoted in Kent, 2001, 24) suggested of My Bed: ‘It looks like the scene of a crime as if someone has just died or been fucked to death’.”

I dislike most modern art. No effort and no skill = garbage. :expressionless:

Here’s and idea, why don’t I find a male mannequin in a dump and give it a water gun filled with tomato juice and then melt it’s left leg and right pointing finger for no apparent reason then say it “represents the struggle of good vs evil inside of us all” and sell it for $15,000!!


This is exactly why I hate modern art and love Illustrations. They are just taking advantage of the shock value to make $$$.

I made my split with the term “artist” a long time ago. There was a point where I told people I’m rather be called an illustrator. I wasn’t some black barret wearing snob who hates society, and I didn’t want to be confused with those who were.

Now that I spend as much time as I do on 3d, I’m pretty sure nobody would have me as an “artist” anyway. There is a (growing) circle in the art community that look down their nose at what we do in 3d.

Haven’t got much more to add to this now. However, just wanted to say I’ve found this a very thought provoking thread. Thanks for starting it osxrules.

I know this is slightly (ok then - very) off topic, however the comment you made shadowman made me think about about cgi and its role in the artworld. Like you say, not very prominent. I’m not wanting to drive this thread off course, but isn’t it strange how cgi is not well accepted in the artworld. Wonder why? Maybe that could be the topic of a new thread? Some people might be interested in the work of Knowbotic Research - looks quite groovy to me. Here’s a pic from their “IO_Dencies 98” show:

PS Tracy Emin’s work does not need to be censored. I don’t think there is a legal or moral case for asking her to give the cash back to Charles Saatchi cause “it was a load of b******ks”. If it was, I’d keep the cash and if it wasn’t I’d still keep the cash and sleep soundly with a clear conscience.

Perhaps because so many cgi works are bare illustrations and not art ?

I mean, look at CGTalk, there is a ton of technically very good pictures there, but how many could be displayed on the opposite wall of any minor master of impressionism ? very, very few.

And look at expose entries, how many convey emotion beside the initial whoah factor ? Even less.

for me, art is a matter of beauty, emotion and feeling. This is something completly different from the technical quality. cgi graphics tend to have the latter, but rarely the formers.

To came back on topic, Tracy Emin’s work has neither of those (for me).

In fact cgi graphics place is similar to photography (also looked down by many dumbass of the art gallery circus, although it is certainly as or more important than them nowadays), but this is a very young medium and we have not found yet many of our Man-Ray, Doisneau, Cartier-Bresson, Capa and al. This will mature.

Not all performance art is bad. Like some of the stuff Philip Glass and Steve Reich did for stage can be considered performance art in the way everyone seems to put it here.

I often encounter this in music. Look at people like Bach and Beethoven, or even Ravel, spending forever putting together a good composition. Then John Cage pumps out 4’33" (4 minutes and 33 seconds of silence, a work of “music”) without writing a single note and becomes famous. Mozart wrote until his hand was permanently disfigured from holding the pen and he couldn’t even get the recognition Cage gets back then.

Well, I guess I’m going to take on the task of defending Emin’s work. I first saw it in an Art in America around 98, and I really loved it from the first moment I saw it.

Everything that was coming out of the contemporary art world for a long time was really sterile, cultural analysis.

Emin is raw, and yes, it’s vile and angry, and in-your-face work,
but that’s the point of it. That’s the “soul” that so many in this forum say is missing.

You have to understand that the contemporary art world means something else when they say “art”.

I have heard art defined as “culturally significant information encoded in alluring form.”

That sums up what the artworld is looking for. Stuff that sort of describes the times we live in. And not just describes it… attempts to change it.

What the artworld today is using as a premise first started in the late 1700’s around the French revolution.

Artists like Courbet in that time used art as a tool to thwart the establishment and affect social change.

That is the reason the contemporary artworld places value on “shock”.

It’s purpose today is often to remind us of aspects of reality we would rather not look at.

That’s what I think Emin’s art is doing. It’s showing alot of the conflictual, often painful realities involved in being female in a post-feminist era, when the media seems almost more sexist than ever, when many of the concerns of the feminist artists of the 70’s seem too purist for women of today.

Don’t knock Emin. She’s got a voice.

Don’t knock Emin. She’s got a voice.

So do I, with my voice I declare her “artwork” pretentious and shoddy.(heh that’s partly redundant)

Emin is raw, and yes, it’s vile and angry, and in-your-face work,
but that’s the point of it. That’s the “soul” that so many in this forum say is missing.

No excuse for creating badly made artwork.

When the actual “artwork” obviously took no talent the message becomes irrelavent in my opinion. I just can’t respect the “artwork” when it’s so badly made…I mean look at her “drawings”. %|

Maybe I’m coming off as a bit harsh, I don’t mean to be. I just don’t like her “artwork” or most modern artwork. :stuck_out_tongue:

simple question. to people who don’t like her artwork.

how long do you think it took her to do the tent??

and how long do you think it takes to paint a A4 sized painting?


I see it as an work for journallist to reflect our world, if they don’t then that is a problem.

Are you going to imply that if she took a long time to do it, it therefore gives it some artistic integrity? She very well may have spent years folding every crease the way she wanted and measuring out each and every dimension but the fact remains that what she has produced is work which could be done by someone in a matter of minutes. I could scribble a rude drawing on a page very quickly if I wanted, but its junk so I don’t waste my time doing it.

In childrens schools, they may well take the entire day to paint a dog and it ends up looking like a tortoise but people don’t take a step back and say, “y’know, that kid put a lot of time into that work, I wonder what they meant by shaping a dog like a tortoise. Could it be that a dog runs fairly quickly and a tortoise is slow? The kid must have a deep understanding of the ironies of life”

Like people have been saying, if you put anything in an exhibition (toe-nails etc.) then people will talk about it. Philosophy is like that - you can spout the most detailed descriptions and possible meanings of every object on the planet but if we define every object on the planet to be art because it’s going to affect at least one person, then art loses its value.

As for CG art, I do think it is valid art. I mean, you can tell between good and bad CG art. I think what some artists may not like is the fact that the computer is producing the image but you could say that it’s the paint that produces a painting. The art comes in the form of who’s controlling the brush. In CG art, the art comes in the form of who’s controlling the 3D geometry, the lighting setup, the textures and so on.

I think a trip to:
will convince anyone that CG is a valid artform. Like I said before, I think that one of the defining qualities of good art is that it is hard to reproduce.

But not all cg is very artful, for example in: []
I do not see anything specially artful, if it were a photo I don’t anyone would give it a second glance. Much cg is just trying to acheive realism and forgets the meaning of it.

Hmm when browsing I do not see much art, there are many really advanced renders, but not so much else, I rarely see that they have used lines and compositioning.

But it’s a creation from primitives - that’s where the talent lies. If someone can make a CG scene look real, that to me is artistic. Are you honestly saying that you would rather look at an unmade bed than that image?

No I think that image is interesting, not as traditional art, but as an advanced 3d image.
(while an unmade bed is neither advanced nor traditional art)