Always at the centre of her own world, Tracey Emin CBE (트레이시 에민) uses all aspects of her life in her art, transforming the intimate autobiography into more comprehensive statements about sex, love, death, freedom and everyday life. Her work has taken the form of diarist drawings, paintings, films, sculptures and written stories, all of which convey the same combination of frustration, pain, compassion and wit. Drawing and printmaking have remained key media for Emin, and over the last ten years she has produced a steady stream of monotype prints directly from her drawings.
Tracey Emin CBE was born in London in 1963. She spends her time in the South of France, London and Margate where she also moved into her new studio in 2020. The studio will serve as a museum after her death.
Tracey Emin has had numerous exhibitions including a solo show at Château La Coste, Aix-en-Provence, France (2017); Leopold Museum, Vienna (2015); Museum of Contemporary Art, Miami (2013); Museo de Arte Latinoamericano de Buenos Aires (2012); Turner Contemporary, Margate, United Kingdom (2012); Hayward Gallery, London (2011); Kunstmuseum Bern (2009); Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art, Edinburgh (2008); Centro de Arte Contemporáneo, Malaga, Spain (2008); Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney (2003); and Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam (2002). In 2007 Tracey Emin represented the UK at the 52nd Venice Biennale, and her installation My Bed was included in “In Focus” exhibitions at Tate Britain with Francis Bacon (2015), Tate Liverpool with William Blake, and also at Turner Contemporary, Margate alongside JMW Turner (2017). In 2011 Tracey Emin was appointed Professor of Drawing at the Royal Academy of Arts, London, and in 2012 was made Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (CBE) for her contributions to the visual arts.
In November 2020, a major solo exhibition titled “The Loneliness of the Soul” opened at the Royal Academy of Arts, London. The exhibition was on view at the Edvard Munch Museum in Oslo in 2021, followed by the unveiling of “The Mother,” her permanent public loan to Oslo Museum Island. The portfolio “These Feelings were True” with eight lithographs was also published in this context.
Tracey Emin’s unusual journey from vulgar upstart to art world establishment:
Alongside David Hockney and Damien Hirst, Emin is undeniably one of Britain’s most famous artists, an icon of the YBA who has become a household name – at least in her home country – the very image of the artist as a brand. Her work, which cuts across a variety of media, is both deeply personal and instantly recognizable – and despite its confessional nature, it has become emblematic of a certain kind of luxury consumption. Her spidery drawings of files, reminiscent of Schiele, and the pink neon colors of handwritten sentences can be found everywhere from Puff Diddy’s collection to the Eurostar terminal at Saint Pancras station, with her cursive as distinctive as the logo of a high-end fashion label.
Emin’s celebrity, then, could be seen as a hindrance to judging her art. If you think respectability is the kiss of death for artistic integrity, you might well find Emin’s work problematic: As a professor of drawing at the ultra-patrician Royal Academy in London and the holder of a number of titles (in 2013 she was named Commander of the Order of the British Empire), it’s fair to say that Emin became famous a long time ago. Possibly alluding to her public support of his right-wing Conservative party in 2009, one of Emin’s neon images with the nondescript words “More Passion” was emblazoned on the walls of 10 Downing Street during Prime Minister David Cameron’s ill-fated tenure. Nothing and no one can be more establishment than that.
Twenty years ago, long before she rose to the higher ranks of society, Emin was a pariah in the national consciousness. In 1999, she was nominated for the Turner Prize, Britain’s most prestigious art award. Although the prize money is relatively small – £25,000 goes to the winner and £5,000 to each of the other three shortlisted artists – the awards ceremony is a major event, broadcast live on prime-time evening television. Simply put, it’s the one moment in the calendar year when the general British public pays attention to new art-and it did. Emin’s contributions to the Turner Prize exhibition that year triggered a media frenzy that enshrined her as the bad girl of British art and made her the target of furious attacks.
Certainly, any of the exhibits in Tracey Emin’s show would have warranted a certain amount of controversy in the exhibition. But the main exhibition, for which Emin was nominated, proved to be truly incendiary. Entering the gallery, you’re immediately greeted by the sight of a bed, the kind you might see in an IKEA showroom. But look closer: The cover is unmade, littered with cigarette ash and traces of random bodily fluids; empty cigarette packets scatter across the dirty blue carpet beside it, while liquor and blender bottles stand upright at the foot of the bed, surprisingly neatly arranged considering the circumstances; on the floor is a pair of scuffed novelty slippers that might have been called “cute” in happier times. Also scattered about are the black-and-gold cardboard backing for a pack of Duracell batteries, a wind-up dog of the kind you can buy at the supermarket, and – most sensational of all – a pair of underpants stained with menstrual blood.
Since 1998 the record price for this artist at auction is $4,365,646 USD for My Bed, sold at Christie’s London in 2014.
Tracey Emin / Edvard Munch. Royal Academy of Arts, London, UK.