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Home > People

WAWIBF... Tracy Emin

28 May 2004

Last Sunday-cum-Monday in the dead of night, a bunch of angry flames spoke for a great many ordinary people and went mental in an East London warehouse containing over a hundred pieces of Charles Saatchi’s collection of modern art.

Amongst the pieces that have been destroyed were works by Damien Hurst, the Chapman brothers and Tracey Emin. In the subsequent hoo-hah, and indeed ha-ha, one thing has become clear: outside of the art industry, it is difficult to find anyone with a good word to say for Tracey Emin. Two of Emin’s works were destroyed in the fire: her tent - ‘Everyone I Have Ever Slept With 1963-1995’- and her shed - ‘The Last Thing I Said is Don't Leave Me Here’. Shame really, that more of her exhibitionist art was not housed in the same place. Her bed, for example, would have gone up like a bloody rocket.

In her 1997 installation, CV Cunt Vernacular, Emin laid bare still more ghastly personal horrors - her childhood in Margate, her rape at 13 and decision to become a 'slag', her bad relationships and botched abortions, her emotional suicide and blah blah blah on and on, proving, if nothing else, that she certainly has the right background to produce some super-poignant tortured soul art. But then she tends not to. Instead she pulls infantile stunts like exhibiting a vial of matter from one of her abortions, which, all things considered, is about as artful as one of those photos of prolapsed weightlifters on rottendotcom.

Emin has said that her forte is ideas. But considering that most people who have such poor ideas simply discard them, perhaps what she’s really good at it flogging those ideas, flogging herself in fact, to other salespeople. Emin’s art is the art of bad ideas, successfully sold. Emin’s philosophy of life can be summed up as follows: "I’m amazing. I could kill myself at any moment. I have so many ideas. Which is brilliant considering how mad I am. You see that old condom. There’s loads more where that came from. I really am mad, you know. Look at me. Keep looking."

Still, every cloud has a silver lining, even if that lining is sometimes made from old tin foil, smeared with rancid Jew fat and stuck with burnt plastic hair from the dolls of murdered toddlers. Just to get an emotional reaction of course. Just to shake things up a bit and show that the artist will never be stifled in his or her mission to provoke thought and attract controversy. The silver lining in this case is that Emin’s work has not been destroyed. It has merely been appropriated by flame.

This will give Emin the right to retitle it - ‘Smouldering Testament to the Immortality of My Beautiful Art’ or some such silliness - and resell it to Charles Saatchi for another couple of hundred grand.

Where was she on Sunday night anyway?

Comment on this article: letters@thefridaything.co.uk

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