By joannearnold, Dec 3 2013 02:10AM
Francis Bacon’s “Three Studies of Lucian Freud” broke an auction price record in November when it sold for $142 million. The New York magazine art critic, Jerry Saltz wrote, “a middlebrow painting by a middlebrow painter painting another middlebrow painter.” Agree or disagree there’s always hype that surrounds British contemporary art. Much of it leaves me cold especially work by Tracey Emin and Damien Hirst. Conceptual art challenges the intellect but that should not mean that the conceptual artist has license to produce rubbish.
I know how thrilled I was to view Damien Hirst’s, “For the Love of God”” on a 2011 trip to Florence, Italy. I had seen the flawless diamond encrusted platinum skull so many times in art journals that the advertising paid off. It was a must see because of the familiar and the use of the obscene materials in a Wall Street sort of way. There were armed guards in a blackened curtain draped room. The skull was lit in a case and the diamonds were ‘alive’. Only a handful of people at a time were allowed to view the piece. I got the concept and fell victim to the hype. I am happy to say I saw it and have no regrets.
At the Hayward Gallery in London in 2011, I experienced Tracey Emin’s “Love is What You Want”. I tried to understand her installations, trinkets and bloody tampons that were representing art. I watched her film about her relationships and her detachments from everything. The only thing that stayed with me is “this artist sucks” and that she resembles Sandra Bernhard. Her hype is a carry-over from promising beginnings with textiles with quilting her poetry.
Both Emin and Hirst gained prominence by becoming Turner Prize winners early in their career. It has given them freedom to do whatever they want and call it art. Whatever the intentions, some of it is painful because it’s so bad and I pay to get in. I do try to understand it. It’s difficult to appreciate something that you’re just not buying into. There is also the question of taking an artist who has been a recipient of an award and marketing the daylights out of them. Promoting fame becomes the drive. I question the hype even if I believe all art has its place.