Tag Archives: Tracey Emin

On giant buttocks…..Turner Prize 65/100

dsc_0028_11London has a gigantic pair of buttocks. Can any other city make this claim? I think not. My work here is done.

Oh, but I love all you dear readers so much, and I know you must have many questions….like, what has our London Passion done to deserve to be standing with giant buttocks? Can I stand next to giant buttocks? Who gets the credit for these giant buttocks? How many times is she going to type the word “buttocks,” (as many as I can.) And I will now try to answer….this sculpture, by Anthea Hamilton, is one of the four finalists for the Turner Prize 2016, on display at the Tate Britain. The Turner Prize, first awarded in 1984, is to an artist under 50, born, living or working in Britain. It is a way to engage the public with contemporary art. The official line is to “widen interest in contemporary art in Britain,”  but what it mostly does is enrage certain members of the public and get everyone talking. This was the platform that gave us Tracey Emin’s My Bed, which, as you all know, I love. But not everyone does. A few years ago, Martin Creed’s piece, Work No. 227,  was an empty room where the lights flicked on and off. Satisfying our inner toddler or most annoying thing ever….art is always in the eye of the beholder. And the Turner Prize wants many eyes to behold and react. The more people are engaged with contemporary art, the more relevant it becomes. Or so we hope. If nothing else, it is a great excuse to take the kids out and have a collective chuckle. We might even learn something, about the world. Or ourselves.

Anthea Hamilton’s piece, Project for a Door, after Gaetano Pesce, was originally a design for a front door, made by a New York based architect, Gaetano Pesce, in the 1970s. How outrageous and incredible would that have been! The catalogue text accompanying this piece, however, is some proper art world yap. Phrases like “obscure culture precedence”  and “statement of conceptual intent” are used. I don’t think anyone looks at this big ass and thinks “yes, it is the collapse of high/low hierarchies.” Instead, given the headline news over the last many months, a huge arse could easily be seen as a statement on the state of the world: Brexit, austerity, terrorism, insane people running for office, GBBO moving to Channel 4. But it isn’t. Not at all. Firstly, it is very, very nice bum. Beautifully cupped in large manicured hands. There is nothing sad or miserable or frightening about this behind. Instead it says “Look at me, I am gorgeous.” We need gorgeous. Lots of gorgeous. And fabulous photo ops. Two young men in the room with us were very very excited by it all, or one was.  He was performing various scenarios, some extremely naughty,  in and around the sculpture while the other, somewhat mortified, took pictures. My daughter and I enjoyed the free show. They enjoyed us enjoying their free show. Smiles and laughter all round.

dsc_0031_10-2Hamilton’s second room was filled with chastity belts. I have longed to write about chastity belts for ages. Because I know something about them most people don’t know, thanks to the hours I spent, several years ago,  in the thorough and exquisitely detailed Museum of Torture, in a small town in Italy. Chastity belts are NOT instruments of oppression and torture and gruesome male dominance. Quite the opposite actually. As a medieval man, you would never have clapped your woman into a metal cage before riding off into battle. You would have hoped to have just impregnated her and to ultimately return, triumphant, to a healthy, male heir. Encasing potential mother and (boy) child would have been dangerous and counterproductive to this progenitive goal. Rather, chastity belts were something women put on themselves. When invaders arrived. Certainly more effective than a can of mace. And Hamilton’s belts are not menacing. Hanging like tiny child swings, decorated, some with flowers, they are pretty and playful and prohibitive.  Not upsetting. Liberating. “My body, my choice,” in iron and leather and steel, with some lovely laser cut designs.

dsc_0040_10In total, 4 artists were on show. Michael Dean’s work included a large pool of 1 pence coins, UK poverty line of twenty thousand four hundred and thirty six pounds…, the amount being exactly 1p less than a family of four needs annually to stay above the poverty line in the UK. Suddenly the coins look very few indeed. The adorable little boy next to me shouted out” Mummy, can I have some money,” as he reached a chubby little hand out. “No, darling,” his mother answered. “No,” we all answered, in our heads, because there is already too little.

dsc_0037_10Josephine Pryde included a fantastic smallish train in her room, covered in graffiti from cities through which it has already travelled. Too bad we couldn’t actually hop on board. Helen Maarten takes objects from everyday life and re-assembles and displays them in new and unusual ways. I spend my days moving and re-assembling everyday objects. So I should have loved this work. But I seek art to escape.

And that brings me back to the big butt. At the end of the exhibit, people are invited to write their thoughts on a card and pin it to the wall. My daughter and I  loved reading them. Lots of complaints. “What is the bloody point,” and “I think this is terrible, or a joke!” being some of the more articulate responses. And then there was this one, from a woman (judging by the handwriting), struggling with depression. “I have been feeling very sad. But Anthea Hamilton’s Project for a Door made me smile, then laugh & laugh. It’s the lightest I have felt in ages.”  Wow! The same little boy I mentioned before took one look at the giant buttocks and shouted, with pure glee in his voice “LOOK, it’s a big bottom!!!!!” Given the state of the current world, those reactions are gigantic ticks in the plus column. Gigantic and needed and appreciated. Thank you Turner Prize.

The finalists will be on show at the Tate Britain until 2 January, 2017. The winner will be announced in 5 December, 2016.




On Gavin and Tracey…and not peaking too early 35/100

IMG_20141018_163007I believe in lots of things. Love, the kindness of strangers, the power of art, the magic of the ordinary and connections. Connections most of all. I see them everywhere. I experience them constantly. I would love to say something like: when I stand very still I see the universe weaving her complicated web of connections. But I don’t stand very still, ever. Or rarely ever. Instead, I toss myself headlong into the day. Maybe it is for this reason that connections continue to catch me out, surprise me. The unexpected delights me. For example, the delight of a day that starts out as normal (whatever that means), then takes a few turns and suddenly I find myself being driven to the Tube station by none other than artists Gavin Turk and Deborah Curtis. They are not just  world famous, influential artists, but serious game changers in the creative world. And we talked about art!!!…if only my 17 year old self could see me now….wait, wait, let me try to find some sort of beginning to this tale.

IMG_20160227_160758_editDuring the London 2012 Olympics, I was filled with even more love for London than usual coupled with a general, overwhelming love for my fellow human beings. Under the spell of all this tenderness, I noticed Tracey Emin’s poster for the Paralympics. An artist I had previously dismissed for her drunken buffoonery had produced, to my eyes, something of exquisite and tender beauty. I was entranced. Then came the neon signs, with all their vulnerable romanticism. I adore them. In Las Vegas, in order to see her signs at their best vantage, I braved a rooftop bar/pool that was like a scene from the In-DSCN5431Betweeners film,  such is my devotion.  When Tate Britain announced that My Bed was back on display I rushed over. And have returned many times. How could I have not gotten it before? Never mind the filth and the rubbish and the morning after pills. This is a work of heartbreak. Perhaps it should be called “what was will never be again.” I know everyone focuses on the dirty sheets and vodka bottles, but it is so so much more than that. It is the debris of paralyzing depression. The I-have-no-reason-to-get-up-ever-again misery, in all its cheap, crumpled loo roll as tissues and over the counter pain relief pop outs and plain “I No Longer Care” grime. I love it.

Then came The Other Art Fair, at the Old Truman Brewery. Artists representing themselves, so a chance to meet, chat and buy with no added commission. All good things. The first thing that caught my eye was a wall of matchbox artwork (as in artwork made with matchboxes) under the enticing banner, The House of Fairytales. Oh yes….I was over like a shot. And then I saw it…..a matchbox version of Emin’s bed. IMG_20151030_162916Complete with fags and pills and tights. I had to have it. HAD TO!!! It wasn’t for sale as such, instead, an item in a silent auction for the charity, The House of Fairytales. Founded by Deborah Curtis, artist (and wife of Gavin Turk), it is a national organization aimed at making the arts, and the creative learning that goes with art, available to children of all backgrounds. I hurriedly scrawled a bid, then went in search of the artist who had created it, not Emin herself, obviously, but equally obviously, a fellow fan. And find her I did. On Stand #15. JanaNicole. American. An artist of gorgeous, vibrant, clever, often nostalgic mixed media pieces who lives in a stunning part of England with her young family, near a haven for opera fans….oh the conversation bubbled with enthusiasm and shared passions. She sounded so much like me. In fact, there was something about her that seemed particularly familiar, not just our accents, not just our ages….when we finally got round to the “ok, where are you from…” stage of the chat I think we both knew what was coming…oh yes, though she claims Southern California on her resume, she spent a few years in the next school district over from me (a much posher one) in the mid-West, a place her father still lives. We probably went to the same parties. Would we have recognized the “I must get out of here” desperation in each other had we met then? Possibly not, but nothing like a proper anywhere-but-there rant to bond two people. Now I was determined to win the bed. Her bed. My bed.

Thanks to some last minute auction strategy, I did get it. I was thrilled. Then came the phone call, “hello, would you like us to post your matchbox bed or would you like to come to Gavin’s studio and have a cup of tea and collect it.” Seriously? For those of you who don’t chase round after contemporary art and the artists who create it, Gavin Turk is one of the original IMG_20160301_134347Young British Artists, or YBAs as they are more often known, brash, bold, barrier breakers who began to exhibit together in London at the end of the 1980s. People like Damien Hirst and the above mentioned Tracey Emin. Love ’em or hate ’em, these guys put British art back on the international map. Turk, who famously created his own Blue Heritage Plague as his graduation exhibition, often explores the ideas of identity and authenticity, including everyday objects in painted bronze. My personal favourite is Nail in One New Change, in the City, perhaps a nod to the fact that this extraordinary building of steel and glass was built completely without such tools.

Turk opened the door himself, “Hello,” he bellowed out and offered his hand. I was almost struck dumb. Almost. But the fetching stripes in his suit startled me back to normal. I bellowed a greeting in return. The studio is very much a working studio, and lots of work was taking place. I didn’t even think about trying to take a photo, of anything. Instead, I was given a delicious cup of coffee and had a long, long conversation with Deborah Curtis. What a charming and fascinating woman, with something insightful to say on, well, everything. Textiles, art, museums, state of the world…I could have listened to her forever. But I had to get back for a karate club pick up. With my matchbox bed all wrapped up and in my hand, I headed out the door. Only to be called back, “we are leaving now as well, shall we drop you at the Tube.” Ummm, yes please. So there I was, in the back of their car, Deborah Curtis driving, Gavin Turk musing about art….oh pinch me now. At moments like this I think “if only my 17 year old self could see me now….” but, no. Actually I don’t. Because remembering how much I had to enjoy ahead gives a lovely bittersweet tinge to the memory of those awful teenage years. Because “don’t peak too early,” is the best piece of advice I was ever given. And lucky, lucky me, I haven’t peaked yet…who knows what tomorrow may bring. Can it top my own little Tracey Emin bed? Well, I am open to the possibilities. And with London on my side, I have no doubt there are many more possibilities to come.