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Wednesday, 15 August, 2001, 16:22 GMT 17:22 UK
Modern art is a 'con', says Harris
Rolf Harris
The presenter is about to launch a new TV art series
TV presenter and artist Rolf Harris has said controversial modern artists are conning the public and frightening them away from art galleries.

The 71-year-old star, famed for the huge landscape paintings he did for children's programmes, took a swipe at artist Tracey Emin, and her infamous work My Bed.

The artwork, which was shortlisted for the Turner Prize, was a recreation of the scene where she spent four days contemplating suicide.

"I don't see how getting out of bed and leaving the bed unmade and putting it on show and saying that's worth, I don't know 31,000... I don't believe it, I think it's a con," he said during an interview with the unmissabletv.com website.

My Bed
Charles Saatchi bought My Bed for 150,000
The bed did not win the prize but it was bought by art collector Charles Saatchi for 150,000.

Harris, who has been made both an MBE and OBE, added: "I've always imagined that something to do with art should have something to do with something artistic.

He said the art should be done by "somebody who's studied and learnt how to be extra special with whatever medium they're doing".

The presenter, who is perhaps best-known for presenting the vets' show Animal Hospital, is about to launch a new series on BBC One in which he will look at 19th Century Impressionists.

Rolf Harris
Harris also presented Cartoon Time
Throughout the series, called Rolf on Art, viewers will see the presenter attempt to recreate scenes painted by famous artists including Monet, Van Gogh, Degas and Gaughin.

He added that he thought most members of the public were "afraid to go into galleries" because they did not know why "something like that is regarded as expensive and important and valuable".

"They feel that they are stupid because they don't understand it," he said.

"And the critics are there saying 'yes it's wonderful this and wonderful that' and I think that Joe Public is just frightened away from galleries just because of that very point."

Emin's anger

But in an interview earlier this week, Emin hit out at people who criticised her art.

"It's not so easy as everyone thinks," she said.

"First you have this amazing inspiration and then you need the conviction to do it and persuade others what it is, and that takes a long time.

"If people say it's a joke or a confidence trick I'd say they're not very interested in art."

Rolf On Art is due to be broadcast this Autumn on BBC One.

See also:

08 Dec 00 | Entertainment
Harris reveals family talents
13 Aug 01 | Arts
Emin defends her art
10 Aug 00 | Entertainment
Rolf Harris hits dancefloor
18 Apr 00 | Entertainment
Rolf ties the royalties down
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