Redesigning the statuette for the Brit Awards, as has happened every year since 2011, is a challenge worth sinking to. Why change it at all? Why bother? Fundamentally, the design is of the utmost banality, and to titivate it, as Damien Hirst, Peter Blake, Vivienne Westwood and others have done in the past, is to add a stardust sprinkle of nonentity to nothing much worth gawping at in the first place.
In common with so many other statuettes designed for a brief public airing on television – the World Cup trophy is perhaps the most gruesome example – it is a work distinguished only by its bland forgettability. You do wonder why persons of real taste, courage and creativity were not invited to get involved in the first place.
Hirst readily splashed his Brits statuette with a few regularly spaced, colourful spots in self-regarding homage to his own spot paintings. Westwood wrapped it in drapes à la Westwood, turning into a bit of a swaggery Westwood catwalk stunt. Last year's re-fashioner, the designer Philip Treacy, did best of all because he decided to add a little something interesting to the original – a disc at the back of its head, which turned that head into the arm of a kind of floating turntable. He also made it black from top to toe, which emphasised both the mildly fascistic-cum-vorticistic nature of the original design, and, being black all over, punk rock, too – so the idea of music got a look-in at last.
How to describe Emin's version? Britannia rises up from her base like a hesitant bottle of mildly phallic, upmarket lavatory deodoriser. Or perhaps this is to malign it. Perhaps, in actuality, it is something like a cross between a pepper dispenser and a perfume bottle. But what exactly, as artist or designer, ought you to do with it? Should one decorate the surface or have the audacity to change its form altogether?
Only Treacy acted with boldness, though Tracey Emin has certainly juggled with some of its elements.And what of Emin, then? She has always been keen to embellish her art with texts of various kinds, usually written in her own handwriting in order to inject an element of deeply touching, special pleading to the mix, their moods often dictated by the wind's listing. These texts have ranged wildly in character, from the scabrous to the maudlin.
Her statuette has a text added to it, too, a few poorly expressed words of yawning tedium and dullness, which, mystifyingly, are repeated three times over. After all, having quickly tired of the emotional intensity of the experience of the whole, some of us might choose to concentrate our attention upon only one quarter of the statuette.
Given that you may find it hard to read these words in reproduction on this page, here they are, as expressed in her own hand, quite as striking and as memorably fresh-minted as any of Tracey's best: "Congratulations on your talent on [sic] your life. On everything you give to others. Thank you." Should a close friend offer to give Tracey Emin a lesson in the use of that word "on"?
The statuette is a queasy, scent-bottle, little-girl's-party-frock-pink in colour, and Britannia's shield has been whisked from front to back, re-emerging as a flimsy, Japanese-y parasol of sorts attached like a pair of lightsome butterfly's wings. The helmet flourishes a ferocious spike for the pricking of vanities of all varieties. We must ask ourselves these questions. How happily does a Japanesey parasol of sorts sit in the company of the pared-down, smoothly featureless martial head of Britannia? Should we perhaps call this gesture cute and Postmodern or not?
If the adjective sweet had not been murdered many times over by overuse, this is the word we might choose for this work (or perhaps rework). Or perhaps, refining upon that a little, cooingly sweet.