Tracey Emin: My Life in a Column

This brutal witch-hunt of Kate Moss would push anyone further into drink and drugs

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Could you imagine me on coke? I can't even drink coffee. Last week I was having dinner at the Tate, and I was sitting next to Sir Nicholas Serota (the director of the Tate gallery), and some how the subject of drugs came into the conversation, artists and their creative vices. Van Gogh and absinthe, Picasso and opium, Frida Kahlo and cocaine, Jean Michel Basquiat and smack, Jackson Pollock the chronic alcoholic - and Emin on her rosé. Ooh, Trace ... hard-core rock'n'droll.

Anyway, I was explaining to Sir Nicholas that I had never taken cocaine (it's true that Docket had a minor problem at one time, but it was just a kitten thing he was going through). Nick looked at me in astonishment and said: "That's really great, you've stopped taking cocaine."

I said: "No, I've never taken it," and at that precise moment it dawned on me that the entire hierarchy of the art world from top to bloody bottom had me down as a cokehead. Bad timing, really, as I had to give an after-dinner speech, in front of Lord Browne and a room full of captains of industry.

Only twice have I mucked up professionally because of my drinking. One which we all know of, oh yes, that 1997 Franz Kafka moment. That rip-roaring, chair-pulling, passion-pumping, gut-wrenching, TV panel discussion, Is Painting Dead? I swear on my life, to this day I have no memory of ever taking part in such a programme. All I know is that the next morning I woke up to find myself slammed across every newspaper. The first woman drunk on British TV who actually didn't have a problem.

Since looking back at video footage (which sadly still triggers no memory) the only real shock is that undoubtedly it was the most boring panel discussion I have ever seen, and bordering just a little bit on the sexist side.

Drunk Occasion Number Two was when I had to give a reading as part of Camberwell Arts Week. I was so fucked up, I passed out. And yes, the whole thing is on film (this time the BBC) - and Adrian Searle, the art critic of The Guardian, was in the audience. God, did he crucify me. I sent him a postcard after his review saying that I completely agreed with him, but the only problem was that it should have been published on the obituary pages.

Brief lives

Did you know that nearly all reasonably well-known people have their obituaries written before they die? Newspapers have them stockpiled, and they are constantly updated, like CVs. Last week I read an obituary of an old friend of mine. I had known this person for 13 years, but for the last five years I had refused to speak to them. They had let me down so badly that I could no longer trust them. This person had the ability to just rip through people, using, abusing and destroying on the way.

I tried to remember how this friend was before they started taking hardcore drugs. I remembered the sweet, funny, young creative person who had everything to live for. I put the obituary down and cried, because in it there was not one kind word, not one good memory.

Leave her alone

Now: let's talk about my mate Kate. How do you think her obituary would read?

Icon of the 21st century. Changed the face of fashion. Remembered for her huge acts of generosity. Loving, caring mother. Was credited as being one of the most beautiful women in the world ...

Kate has been working since she was 14, at the top of her league, without a break. Now she can have one.

Have you ever seen any of Kate's films? Her photos? Not photos of her. Not films about her, but ones that she has made. If Kate wasn't a model, I am sure she would have been an artist. I love the idea of Kate Moss, at the age of 32, going to art school, but it seems half of British society is more keen to see her go to prison (très chic, Kate, in that grey flannel outfit, with a key print all over it).

News of the World, Sunday 18 September: "Kate's lesbian threesomes!" (how come I wasn't invited), and inside lots of sordid, prettily prattily details and a naked Kate. I bet every other man who had that paper on Sunday disappeared to the potting shed for at least two minutes, while the missus did the roast.

As they crucify her, it's so obvious the words that are left out: you'll miss her when she's gone. I'm not condoning the use of drugs, but I am asking if we can have a realistic perspective on this. The way Kate Moss has been hounded and treated has the essence of a witch-hunt, which would be enough to push anybody further into drugs and drink. There are far worse things in life, but I'd say being a bully comes in the top three. Leave Kate alone.

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