The Tate recently announced that “My Bed” will soon be on display for those visiting the gallery.
This new addition by self-proclaimed artist Tracey Emin is easy to describe. It is an unmade bed with stained sheets and a variety of objects such as used condoms and cigarette butts littering the ground around it.
The skill required to put these items together is also easy to measure. The bed, for example, is not sculpted, let alone painted. It is literally a bed. The same goes for the items around it. Speaking frankly, this collection of objects took no skill to create and no effort to organize.
Is it even art? No, not by a long shot. “Art” does not mean “a collection of objects that someone has gathered together or walked away from.” Nor does it mean “something that repulses passersby.”
“Art” is a re-creation of reality through some medium, such as bronze or paint. It requires of the artist time, effort, and (because those are in limited supply) selectivity—the artist must choose, based on what he holds important, what he will spend his limited time and effort on depicting.
Of course, the contents of a person’s pockets, or the items that build up around their bed, can say an enormous amount about that person. Tracey Emin’s bed is “autobiographical” or a “self-portrait” in that sense.
But it is not art.
The word to describe a collection of used condoms and cigarette butts is trash. The proper place for it is not at a gallery, but a landfill. And as the gallery’s curators are seemingly not able to do their jobs, let’s all hope that the janitor hired to clean up the place will do his.