Sunday, July 01, 2007


The Artswipe
Two all-beef patties, special sauce, lettuce, cheese,
pickles, onions on a sesame seed bun, 2007
Found image collage

It was appropriate that Britain should have been represented by that undisputed queen of narcissism, Tracey Emin. She responded in typical fashion, demanding that she only be accommodated at a hotel that had a certain “thread count” in the sheets. She wanted a room for her secretary and a private boat. In return, she produced a series of small, laughably bad drawings; scrappy shapeless paintings; piles of sticks that passed for sculpture; and outline doodles in neon. The theme needless to say was Me, Me, Me.

Her fans were rapt in admiration. “Tracey”, as she is known by all the world, was on hand to do a lot of swearing. For some, this served as confirmation of her genius. If further proof of sainthood was needed, one of the catalogue essays was written by a clergyman who gave a religious spin to Tracey’s art and expletives. For those like me who were not so anxious to worship at her alter, it seemed clear that in terms of her fame and her talent, Tracey is nothing less than the Paris Hilton of contemporary art.
(John McDonald, “Festival of False Gods”, Sydney Morning Herald, June 16-17, 2007).

If Tracey Emin is the Paris Hilton of contemporary art, John McDonald is the Dan Brown of the art critic world. Let me explain.

A week before old McDonald bagged Emin, that bourgeois Herald supplement Good Weekend ran a cover story profiling artists in their studios. Basically a puff-piece to promote John McDonald’s new book, Studio: Australian Painters on the Nature of Creativity, the cover featured Aida Tomescu. I could review this article here at Artswipe in case you missed it, but Good Weekend reader Melanie Flynn of Hawthorn East, Victoria, sums it up perfectly in her letter to the magazine's editor, published this weekend:

The promise of an article about Australia’s top artists (June 9) was sadly short-lived as the author bought into the career story of art critic John McDonald. Surely most people who work within the industry have heard this story time and again and, for those who haven’t,it is hardly gripping stuff. If you are going to descend into the banality of art-world politics, please don’t promise something more by placing a full-page image of a female artist on your cover, who you then hardly mention in the accompanying article. (Good Weekend, 30 June, 2007).

I agree. It’s hardly gripping and it didn't really make me want to rush out and buy the book. McDonald would tear shreds off any other critic who’d dare to produce such nebulous, glossy coffee table criticism. Granted, a book on artists in their studios is an interesting idea; it appeals to our voyeuristic tendencies to know every bit of minutia about celebrity. And indeed, there is a whiff of celebrity about this book in that it appeals to the kind of personality-driven excess that McDonald gets all huffy over - evidenced by his jibe at Tracey Emin. More info on the book is available here and you can even download a nine page PDF sample of the book here.

Studio is available now and for a mere $80 you can furnish your coffee table with a copy. “That’s too much money,” I hear you cry in dismay. Think about it this way: Big Macs cost $3.25 each. With $80 you could either buy John McDonald’s book or visit your local McDonalds and order 24 Big Macs.


Skanky Jane said...

I don't much like Big Macs but thanks to your link I can just have a nibble on Mc Donald. Great post Arty. Although, rushing at first I thought that was you bagging Emin amd had to re-read! Here's to personality-driven excess - the more the merrier!

(I'm currently writing an art quiz - will have it up in a mo.)

SJ xx

Skanky Jane said...

PS I love your new collage Artswipe. Your blog and mobile phone aesthetic is so clever and you have such a great collection that I, (together with many others I am sure), dream of a day when The Artswipe might exhibit all of this work in the white walled spaces of real time.

SJ xx

Anonymous said...

imagine having to be an artist in jmc's book - how embarassing - i would rather be seen at micky dees personally

lucia said...

She looks more like Tracey M&M in that pic.
As for your blurry shots ...
welcome to Fantasy Eyeland.