Art attack: Britain’s most controversial artists

One of Hirst's works at his retrospective exhibtion at Tate Modern. Picture: Getty
One of Hirst's works at his retrospective exhibtion at Tate Modern. Picture: Getty
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DAMIEN Hirst’s retrospective at the Tate Modern in London is not only an opportunity to reevaluate the work of one of the UK’s most polemic artists, but it also happens to be a distillation of what, for some observers, defines contemporary art, for better or for worse.

But, as The Scotsman finds, other British artists have form when it comes to provoking strong reactions among the public.

Tracey Emin

Tracey Emin’s most widely-discussed works have provoked a curious mixture of revulsion and intrigue; revulsion because of the materials used (‘My Bed’, perhaps her most famous work, features blood-stained underwear and condoms), and intrigue because the majority of her work is so personal - another piece, called ‘Everyone I Have Ever Slept With 1963–1995’, was a tent containing the names of, well, all the people she had ever slept with.

Jake and Dinos Chapman

Few subjects are taboo for the Anglo-Greek brothers: Hitler, dog excrement, and sex dolls commingle in their major exhibitions, offending all and sundry with cheerful, shoulder-shrugging regularity. Their first work, a series of miniature sculptures reinterpreting etchings by Fracisco Goya, The Disasters of War, depicting various methods of torture witnessed during the Napoleanic invasion of Spain in 1808.

Kevin Harman

YBAs - that’s Young British Artists, the acronym coined to group together Emin, Hirst et al - don’t have it all their own way when it comes to artists that push the boundaries. Kevin Harman, a young Scottish artist whose works have ranged from stealing doormats from Edinburgh residents for an art college exhibit (‘Love Thy Neighbour’) to throwing a scaffolding pole through a gallery window (which he was fined £200 for).


An expedition into any student’s bedroom/lair will seldom conclude without a sighting of a Banksy poster. For such a prolific and established figure - and for one who has starred in a major feature film, a documentary entitled Exit Through The Gift Shop, and exhibited work in major international galleries - it is remarkable that the identity of the graffiti artist remains unknown. One of his most famous works is a series of paintings daubed on the side of the Israeli West Bank barrier, depicting routes of escape or a window through which to see the other side of the wall.