BRITISH artist Tracey Emin has “sexed up” the Summer Exhibition at Londonâ€™s Royal Academy, bringing graphic images to an annual event traditionally seen as a strait-laced celebration of art.
The 44-year-old, a central figure in the Young British Artist movement with Damien Hirst, was confident the room she curated at this yearâ€™s show would appeal to young and old alike.
“The nice middle-aged ladies … I think they canâ€™t wait to get into this room,” she told reporters on Wednesday at a press preview for the exhibition, now in its 240th year.
Signs at the entrance to the room warn: “There are works in this gallery which are shocking”.
They included Mat Collishawâ€™s depiction of a zebra copulating with a woman and a photograph of Hirst in a morgue laughing next to the bloated head of a dead man.
In notes accompanying the gallery, Emin argued that the Hirst photograph had “documentary significance” because it was “the moment when Damien, then 17 or so, crossed the boundary and his career took off”.
Hirstâ€™s work, which often sells for millions of dollars, has long explored the theme of death, through dead animals preserved in formaldehyde to a more recent diamond-encrusted platinum skull which has been valued at up to US$100 million.
Collishawâ€™s In the Old Fashioned Way is designed to move, and when working, Emin predicted, “will give everyone a thrill.”
Renowned for art that is designed to shock, Emin said she was honoured to be a member of the Royal Academy, despite the institutionâ€™s reputation for being prestigious and stuffy.
“I like the restraint that it has, because that means you can break the rules, you can step outside it,” Emin said.
According to the Royal Academy, its summer show is the worldâ€™s largest open-submission contemporary art exhibition, with around 10 000 works in all media submitted this year from which just over 1 000 were selected. â€“â€“Reuters