26 Nov, 2009

What’s Tracey Emin’s problem with the Guardian?

Posted by: admin In: Guardian

Emin says that this paper was ‘spiteful’ to her over her complaints about tax. Hasn’t she read our reviews?

I’m not saying today’s interview with Tracey Emin in the Independent is hagiographic, but it does claim that she has stopped drinking. Really? Or perhaps when the paper refers to “the stories of her old drinking days”, it means this spring, when reliable sources report an embarrassingly drunken after-dinner speech from this beloved “Lady Liberty”.

There I go, being spiteful. Emin claims that of all the vilification she suffered after the Sunday Times reported she’d rather move to France than pay 50% tax, the worst has been from this paper. The Guardian “is the one that is really spiteful to me”.

Personally, I did think the vitriolic reaction to something Emin now denies she said was excessive – and I said so, here, in the Guardian. As for a deeper “spite” the story unleashed, well, I also wrote a rave review here of her show at White Cube and described her as “some kind of genius” – all this year.

To be honest, I think her critics are mistaking her for someone else. The makings of a Tory have always been there. She’s the archetypal British working-class hero made good, and saying at one time or other you (a) plan to vote Tory and (b) object to high taxes, is part of that identity, in a tradition established long ago by the likes of Michael Caine. Emin and the entire 1990s sensation generation actually emerged in the last days of John Major’s government, were supported by the anything-but-Labour Charles Saatchi, and their art – hers above all – was and is about individualist, not collective, themes.

Emin does seem upset that she has lost face or popular affection; perhaps she is just a tiny bit caught up in the celebrity culture that imagines a non-existent community between the famous and their public. But how do you unsay something? By claiming you never said it, and by giving an interview in which property, money, all the stuff for which she’s been picked on, are very much to the fore. Censorious denunciations of an artist for not being something she never was are ridiculous. But Emin’s attempt to talk her way out of trouble raises a far more damaging possibility – that she will become a bore.

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