Tracey Emin RA (born 3 July 1963) is an English artist of Turkish Cypriot origin, one of the group known as Britartists or YBAs (Young British Artists).
In 1997, her work Everyone I Have Ever Slept With 1963–1995, a tent appliquéd with names, was shown at Charles Saatchi's Sensation exhibition. The same year, she gained considerable media exposure, when she appeared drunk and swearing on a live Channel 4 TV discussion.
In 1999, she was a Turner Prize nominee and exhibited My Bed — an installation, consisting of her own unmade dirty bed with used condoms and blood-stained underwear. There has been an ongoing dispute with former boyfriend, artist Billy Childish, particularly over the Stuckism movement, founded in 1999 and named after an insult by her.
In 2004, her tent artwork was destroyed in the Momart warehouse fire. In March 2007, Emin was chosen to join the Royal Academy of Arts in London as a Royal Academician. She represented Britain at the 2007 Venice Biennale.
Emin's art takes many different forms of expression including needlework and sculpture, drawing, video and installation, photography and painting.
Sexton Ming, Tracey Emin, Charles Thomson, Billy Childish and Russell Wilkins at the Rochester Adult Education Centre December 11, 1987 to record The Medway Poets LP
Tracey Emin was born in Croydon, but brought up in Margate. She has a twin brother, Paul. Emin's father, an ethnic Turkish Cypriot, was married to a woman other than her mother and divided his time between his two families. He owned the Hotel International in Margate, and, when the business failed, Emin's family suffered a severe decline in their standard of living, circumstances which have featured in a number of works. Around the age of 13 she was raped or broken in as she describes the then-current term.
She studied fashion at Medway College of Design (1980–1982), where she met expelled student Billy Childish and was associated with The Medway Poets. Emin and Childish were a couple till 1987 during which time she was the administrator for his small press Hangman Books which specialized in publishing Childish's confessional poetry. In 1984 she studied printing at Maidstone Art College, which she has described as one of the best experiences of her life. In 1995, she was interviewed in the Minky Manky show catalogue by Carl Freedman, who asked her, "Which person do you think has had the greatest influence on your life?" She replied,
In 1987 she moved to London to study at the Royal College of Art, where she obtained an MA in printing, though she has described this time as a very negative experience. Her influences included Edvard Munch and Egon Schiele; later she destroyed all her paintings from this early period, and for a time studied philosophy at Birkbeck, University of London.
In 1993, Emin opened a shop with fellow artist Sarah Lucas, called simply The Shop in Bethnal Green. This sold works by the two of them, including T-shirts and ash trays with Damien Hirst's picture stuck to the bottom. Lucas paid Emin a wage to mind the shop and Emin also made extra money by writing letters to people asking them to invest £20 in her as an artist, one being Jay Jopling, who became her dealer. During this period Emin was also working with the gallerist Joshua Compston.
In 1994, she had her first solo show at the White Cube gallery, a leading contemporary art gallery in London. It was called My Major Retrospective, and was what is now seen as typically autobiographical in her work, consisting of personal photographs, and photos of her (destroyed) early paintings, as well as items which most artists would not consider showing in public, such as a packet of cigarettes her uncle was holding when he was decapitated in a car crash. This willingness to show details of what would generally be thought of as her private life has become one of Emin's trademarks.
In the mid-1990s she had a relationship with Carl Freedman, who had been an early friend of, and collaborator with, Damien Hirst and who had co-curated seminal Britart shows, such as Modern Medicine and Gambler. In 1994, they toured the US together, driving in a Cadillac from San Francisco to New York, and making stops en route where she gave readings from her autobiographical book Exploration of the Soul to finance the trip. En route they "belly surfed" in San Diego and watched bears in Big Sur.
The couple also spent time by the sea in Whitstable together, using the beach hut, which she uprooted and turned into art in 1999 with the title The Last Thing I Said to You is Don't Leave Me Here, and which was destroyed in the 2004 Momart warehouse fire.
Everyone I Have Ever Slept With 1963–1995 by Tracey Emin (1995). An interior view of the work.
In 1995 Freedman curated the show Minky Manky at the South London Gallery. Emin has said,
The result was Emin's famous "tent" Everyone I Have Ever Slept With 1963–1995, which was first exhibited in the show. It was a blue tent, appliquéd with the names of everyone she has slept with. These included sexual partners, plus relatives she slept with as a child, her twin brother, and her two aborted children. Although often talked about as a shameless exhibition of her sexual conquests, it was rather a piece about intimacy in a more general sense, although the title invites misinterpretation. The needlework which is integral to this work was used by Emin in a number of her other pieces. This piece was later bought by Charles Saatchi and included in the successful 1997 Sensation exhibition at the Royal Academy of London; it then toured to Berlin and New York. It, too, was destroyed by the fire in Saatchi's east London warehouse, in 2004.
Freedman's interview with her appears in the catalogue. Other featured artists were Sarah Lucas, Gary Hume, Damien Hirst, Mat Collishaw, Gilbert & George, Critical Décor and Steven Pippin. Emin now describes Freedman as "one of my best friends".
Emin lives in Spitalfields, East London on Fournier Street in a Georgian Huguenot silk weavers house which dates from 1726.
Although these early events caused Emin to be well known in art circles, she was largely unknown by the public until she appeared on a Channel 4 television programme in 1997. It was an ostensibly serious debate show about that year's Turner Prize, and Emin appeared completely drunk (she has said this was caused by painkillers she was taking for a broken finger), swearing, insulting the other panel members and saying that she wanted to go home to her mum (she then left).
My Bed by Tracey Emin
Two years later, in 1999, Emin was shortlisted for the Turner Prize herself and exhibited My Bed at the Tate Gallery. There was considerable media furore about this, particularly as the sheets of the bed were stained yellow, and the floor surrounding it had items from her room such as condoms,empty cigarette packets, a pair of knickers with menstrual stains and other detritus including a pair of slippers. The bed was presented as it had been when she had stayed in it for several days feeling suicidal because of relationship difficulties.
One lady came to the exhibition with cleaning materials and had to be stopped from tidying it up. Two performance artists, Yuan Chai and Jian Jun Xi, jumped onto the bed with bare torsos in order to "improve" the work, which they thought had not gone far enough.
In July 1999, at the height of Emin's Turner Prize fame, the artist created a number of monoprint drawings inspired by the public and private life of Princess Diana for a themed exhibition called Temple of Diana held at The Blue Gallery, London. Works such as They Wanted You To Be Destroyed (1999) related to Princess Diana's bulimia eating disorder, while other monoprints included affectionate texts such as Love Was On Your Side and a description of Princess Diana's dress with puffy sleeves. Other drawings highlighted The things you did to help other people written next to a drawing by Emin of Princess Diana in protective clothing walking through a minefield in Angola. Another work was a delicate sketch of a rose drawn next to the phrase, It makes perfect sence to know they killed you (with Emin's trademark spelling mistakes) referring to the conspiracy theories surrounding Princess Diana's death. Emin herself described the drawings saying they "could be considered quite scrappy, fresh, kind of naive looking drawings" and "It's pretty difficult for me to do drawings not about me and about someone else. But I have did have a lot of ideas. They're quite sentimental I think and there's nothing cynical about it whatsoever."
International popstars Elton John and George Michael are both collectors of Emin's work, with Michael, and his partner Kenny Goss, holding the A Tribute To Tracey Emin exhibition in September 2007 at their Dallas based museum, the Goss-Michael Foundation (formerly Goss Gallery) . This was the inaugural exhibition for the gallery which displayed a variety of Emin works from a large blanket, video installations, prints, paintings and a number of neon works including a special neon piece George Loves Kenny (2007) which was the centrepiece of the exhibition, developed by Emin after she wrote an article for The Independent newspaper in February 2007 with the same title. Michael and Goss own 25 works by Emin.
Other celebrities and musicians who support Emin's art include models Jerry Hall and Naomi Campbell, film star Orlando Bloom who bought a number of Emin's works at charity auctions and pop band Temposhark, whose lead singer collects Emin's art, named their debut album The Invisible Line, inspired by passages from Emin's book Exploration of The Soul. Rock legend Ronnie Wood of the Rolling Stones is a well documented friend of Emin and whose own paintings are inspired by Emin's work.. In 2004, Emin presented Madonna with the UK Music Hall Of Fame award. Emin was invited to Madonna's country estate Ashcombe and has been described by the singer, "Tracey is intelligent and wounded and not afraid to expose herself," she says. "She is provocative but she has something to say. I can relate to that." David Bowie, a childhood inspiration of Emin's, also became friends with the artist, Bowie has described Emin as, William Blake as a woman, written by Mike Leigh
Like the George Michael and Kenny Goss neon, Emin also created a unique neon work for her supermodel friend Kate Moss called Moss Kin. In 2004, it was reported that this unique piece had been discovered dumped in a skip in east London. The piece, consisting of neon tubing spelling the words Moss Kin, had been mistakenly thrown out of a basement, owned by the craftsman who made the glass. The artwork was never collected by Moss and had therefore been stored for three years in the basement of a specialist artist used by Emin in the Spitalfields area. It was accidentally dumped when the craftsman moved. The term used in the work "Kin" is a recurring theme of Emin's to describe those dear to her, her loved ones. Other examples can be seen in a monoprint called MatKin dedicated to her then boyfriend artist Mat Collishaw and released as an aquatint limited edition in 1997. Emin has also created a nude drawing of Kate Moss known as Kate (2000), signed and dated as 1st February 2000 in pencil by the artist. In 2006, the same image was released as a limited edition etching, but renamed as Kate Moss 2000 (2006).
Emin's monoprints are a well documented part of her creative output. These unique drawings represent a diaristic aspect and frequently depict events from the past for example, Poor Love (1999), From The Week Of Hell '94 (1995) and Ripped Up (1995), which relate to a traumatic experience after an abortion or other personal events as seen in Fuck You Eddy (1995) and Sad Shower in New York (1995) which are both part of the Tate's collection of Emin's art.
Often they incorporate text as well as image, although some bear only text and others only image. The text appears as the artist's stream of consciousness voice. Some critics have compared Emin's text-only monoprints to ransom notes. The rapid, one-off technique involved in making monoprints is perfectly suited to (apparently) immediate expression, as is Emin's scratchy and informal drawing style. Emin frequently misspells words, deliberately or due to the speed at which she did each drawing. In a 2002 interview with Lynn Barber, Emin said,
Emin created a key series of monoprints in 1997 with the text Something's Wrong or There Must Be Someting Terebley Wrong With Me written with spelling mistakes intact in large capital letters alongside "forlorn figures surrounded by space, their outlines fragile on the page. Some are complete bodies, others only female torsos, legs splayed and with odd, spidery flows gushing from their vaginas. They are all accompanied by the legend There's Something Wrong."
Other key monoprints include a series from 1994 and 1995 known as the Illustrations from Memory series which document Tracey's childhood memories of sexual awakening and other experiences growing up in Margate such as Fucking Down An Ally 16/5/95 (1995) and Illustrations from Memory, the year 1974. In The Livingroom (1994). Emin further produced a set of monoprints detailing her memories of Margate's iconic buildings such as Margate Harbour 16/5/95 (1995), The Lido 16/5/95 (1995) and Light House 15/5/95 (1995). Other drawings from 1994 include the Family Suite series, part of the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art collection, consisting of 20 monoprints with "archetypal themes in Emin's art: sex, her family, her abortions, and Margate". This series of monoprints will be displayed for the first time from August 2008 at the Edinburgh based gallery as part of her first major retrospective, which has been called the Summer Blockbuster exhibition.A further Family Suite II set was exhibited in Los Angeles in November 2007 as part of Emin's solo show at Gagosian gallery.
Emin's monoprints are rarely displayed alone in exhibitions, they're particularly effective as collective fragments of intense emotional confrontation. Emin has made several works documenting painful moments of sadness and loneliness experienced when travelling to foreign cities for various exhibitions such as Thinking Of You (2005) and Bath White IV (2005) which were from a series of monoprints drawn directly onto the USA Mondrian hotel stationary. Emin herself has said,
There is a complex history of Emin's relationship with painting. She has often cited the works of Munch and Schiele as major influences. She had painted in the mid 1980s in an Expressionist style, highly influenced by her then boyfriend Billy Childish. In 1997 art critic Neal Brown, interviewing Tracey for Magma Magazine, asked "How important an Influence was Billy Childish on you?" she replied, "A big influence, a major influence . . . When I first met Billy at 17 I was so nihilistic, I didn’t believe in anything or anyone . . . Billy was the first person I’d met in my life who was doing what they wanted to do . . . For a while I emulated him then was able to branch off and take my own direction. I was really in love with him as well."
In the late 1980s, Emin completed an MA at the Royal College of Art. She subsequently stopped painting and destroyed all the artworks she had ever done, during a period that she has described as her "emotional suicide" following an abortion. Photos of Emin's destroyed early paintings were part of her first White Cube solo exhibition My Major Retrospective in 1994.
Emin displayed six small watercolours in her Turner Prize exhibition in 1999, and also in her New York show Every Part Of Me's Bleeding held that same year, known as the Berlin Watercolour series (1998). These delicate, washed out but colourful watercolours include four portraits of Emin's face and were all painted by Emin in Berlin during 1998, adapted from Polaroids of the artist taking a bath. Each unique painting from this series share the same title, Berlin The Last Week In April 1998. Simon Wilson, spokesperson for the Tate, commented that Emin included the set of tiny Berlin watercolours "as a riposte to the accusation that there are no paintings" in the Turner Prize exhibitions. The bath theme seen in these watercolours was later revisited by Emin in her photographic work Sometimes I Feel Beautiful (2000) and in monoprints such as the Bath White (2005) series. With all these works, Emin explores a Mary Cassatt quality of the "woman in a private moment".
Emin's focus on painting has developed over the past few years, starting with the Purple Virgin (2004) acrylic watercolour series of purple brush strokes depicting her naked open legs, and leading to paintings such as Asleep Alone With Legs Open (2005), the Reincarnation (2005) series and Masturbating (2006) amongst others.
In May 2005, London's Evening Standard newspaper highlighted Emin's return to painting in their preview of her When I Think About Sex exhibition at White Cube. Other works were nude self-portrait drawings. Emin was quoted: "For this show I wanted to show that I can really draw, and I think they are really sexy drawings."
Work for her 2007 show at the Venice Biennale (see below) included large-scale canvases of her legs and vagina. A watercolour series called The Purple Virgins were displayed. There are ten Purple Virgin works in total, six of which were shown at the Biennale. These were accompanied by two canvases of a similar style called How I Think I Feel 1 and 2.
The Venice Biennale was also the first time Emin's Abortion Watercolour series, painted in 1990, had ever been shown in public.
Jay Jopling uncovered a brand new Emin painting, Rose Virgin (2007), as part of White Cube's stand at the Frieze Art Fair in London's Regent's Park on October 10th 2007. More new paintings are expected to be shown in Emin's You Left Me Breathing exhibition in Los Angeles' Gagosian gallery from 2nd November 2007, described in a recent interview as an 'exhibition of sculpture and painting'. A number of new paintings were on display including Get Ready For The Fuck Of Your Life (2007).
In June 2008, a new Emin painting Red Girl (2007) was shown on the Royal Academy of Arts website in relation to a public talk the artist will give that month.
Emin has produced many photographic works throughout her career, including Monument Valley (Grand Scale) (1995-97) and Outside Myself (Monument Valley, reading ‘Exploration of the Soul’) (1995) which resulted "from a trip Emin made to the United States in 1994. She and her then boyfriend, the writer, curator and gallerist Carl Freedman, drove from San Francisco to New York stopping off along the way to give readings from her book, Exploration of the Soul 1994. The photograph shows the artist sitting in an upholstered chair in Monument Valley, a spectacular location in the middle of the Arizona Desert, holding her book. Although it is open, it is not clear whether she is looking at the viewer or at the text in front of her. Emin gave her readings sitting in the chair, which she had inherited from her grandmother, which also became part of Emin's art, There's A Lot Of Money In Chairs (1994).
Other photographic works include a series of nine images comprising the work Naked Photos – Life Model Goes Mad (1996) documenting a painting performance Emin made in a room specially built in Galleri Andreas Brändström, Stockholm. Another photographic series, Trying On Clothes From My Friends (She Took The Shirt Off His Back) (1997), shows the artist trying on her friends’ clothes offering up questions of identity.
Other works such as I've Got It All (2000) show Emin with her "legs splayed on a red floor, clutching banknotes and coins to her crotch. Made at a time of public and financial success, the image connects the artist’s desire for money and success and her sexual desire (her role as consumer) with her use of her body and her emotional life to produce her art (the object of consumption)". Whilst Sometimes I Feel Beautiful (2000) pictures Emin lying alone in a bath. Both these works are examples of Emin using "large-scale photographs of herself to record and express moments of emotional significance in her life, frequently making reference to her career as an artist. The photographs have a staged quality, as though the artist is enacting a private ritual."
Emin's most iconic are the two self portraits taken inside her famous beach hut, The Last Thing I Said To You Is Don't Leave Me Here I (2000) and The Last Thing I Said To You Is Don't Leave Me Here II (2000). The latter two photographs are a diptych although they are often exhibited and sold separately. They depict a naked Emin on her knees inside her beach hut which she and friend Sarah Lucas had bought in Whitstable, Kent in 1992. The hut itself later became the sculpture The Last Thing I Said To You Is Don't Leave Me Here (The Hut) (1999). They are part of museum collections including Tate Modern, the Saatchi Gallery and the National Portrait Gallery (United Kingdom) and have been mass produced as postcards sold in museum shops around the world.
Emin has also worked with neon lights. One such piece is You Forgot To Kiss My Soul (2001) which consists of those words in blue neon inside a neon heart-shape. Another neon piece is made from the words Is Anal Sex Legal (1998) to complement another Is Legal Sex Anal (1998). For the Venice Biennale, Emin produced a series of new purple neon works, for example, Legs I (2007) . This 2007 series of Legs neon works were directly inspired by the Purple Virgin (2004) watercolour series. For example, Legs IV (2007) directly follows the watercolour lines of the Purple Virgin 9 (2004).
Emin has donated neon work to auction for charity and in 2007, her neon Keep Me Safe reached the highest price ever made for one of her neon works of over £60,000. A brand new neon piece called With You I Want To Live will be shown as part of Emin's You Left Me Breathing exhibition in November/December 2007 at the Gagosian Gallery in Los Angeles.
Emin frequently works with fabric in the form of appliqués — material (often cut out into lettering) sewn onto other material. She collects fabric from curtains, bed sheets and linen and has done so for most of her life. She keeps such material that holds emotional significance for later use in her work. Many of her large scale appliqués are made on hotel linens, for example, It Always Hurts (2005), Sometimes I Feel So Fucking Lost (2005), Volcano Closed (2001) and Helter Fucking Skelter (2001). Hate And Power Can Be A Terrible Thing (2004), part of the Tate's collection of Emin's work, is a large scale blanket inspired in part by Margaret Thatcher due to her involvement in "an attack on 800 boys and men in the Argentinian navy" and other women for example women who steals their friends' boyfriends, Emin says of this work "about the kind of women I hate, the kind of women I have no respect for, women who betray and destroy the hearts of other women".
Emin's use of fabric is diverse, one of her most famous works came from sewing letters onto her grandmother's armchair in There's A Lot Of Money In Chairs (1994). The chair was very detailed, "including her and her twin brother’s names, the year of her grandmother’s birth (1901) and the year of her birth (1963) on either side of the words ‘another world’, referring to the passing of time. An exchange between the artist and her grandmother using the nicknames they had for each other: ‘Ok Puddin, Thanks Plum’, covers the bottom front of the chair and a saying of Emin’s grandmother’s, ‘There’s a lot of money in chairs’, is appliquéd in pink along the top and front of its back. Behind the chair back, the first page of Exploration of the Soul, handwritten onto fabric, is appliquéd together with other dictums such as, ‘It’s not what you inherit. It’s what you do with your inheritance’". Emin used the chair on a trip Emin made to the United States in 1994. Driving from San Francisco to New York stopping off along the way to give readings from her book, Exploration of the Soul (1994). Emin gave her readings sitting in the upholstered chair and "as she crossed the United States, the artist sewed the names of the places she visited – San Francisco, Los Angeles, San Diego, Las Vegas, Monument Valley, Detroit, Pittsburgh, New York - onto the front of the chair". Emin also posed in the chair for two of her photographic works (see Photography) whilst in Monument Valley, in the Arizona Desert.
Emin has made a large number of smaller scale works, often including hand sewn words and images, such as Falling Stars (2001), It Could Have Been Something (2001), Always Sorry (2005) and As Always (2005).
On April 13, 2007, Emin launched a specially designed flag made out of fabric with the message One Secret Is To Save Everything written in orange-red letters across the banner made up of hand-sewn swimming sperm. Tracey Emin's flag, at 21 feet by 14 feet, will fly above the Jubilee Gardens in the British capital until July 31, 2007, with the parliament building and the London Eye as backdrops. Emin called the artwork "a flag made from wishful thinking". The flag was commissioned by the South Bank Centre in London's Waterloo.
In June 2007, on returning from the Venice Biennale, Emin donated a piece of artwork, a handsewn blanket called Star Trek Voyager to be auctioned at Elton John's annual glamorous White Tie & Tiara Ball to raise money for The Elton John AIDS Foundation. The piece of artwork sold for £800, 000.
Emin's works on fabric has been related to other artists such as Louise Bourgeois, who Emin actually mentions in a sewn work called The Older Woman (2005) with the phrase (monoprint on fabric), "I think my Dad should have gone out with someone older like Louise, Louise Bourgeois". Emin was interviewed by Alan Yentob during the BBC's Imagine documentary Spiderwoman about Louise Bourgeois, aired in the UK on 13th November 2007.
Emin has often made use of found objects in her work from the early use of a cigarette box found in a car crash in which her uncle died. The most well known example is My Bed, where she displayed her bed. Another instance is the removal of her beach hut from Whitstable to be displayed in a gallery. This work was titled The Last Thing I Said To You Is Don't Leave Me Here (The Hut) (1999).
She revisited the theme of the bed in 2002, with the mixed media installation, To Meet My Past (2002), another installation with a four poster bed with embroidered text such as Weird Sex and To Meet My Past hanging down alongside the mattress.
Emin also incorporated stones and rocks which had been thrown through her window in a mixed media piece in her 2005 show. The work consists of a monoprint of herself sitting on a chair with the stones lined up below the drawing in a vitrine.
The Leg (2004) included a plaster cast inside a vitrine, kept by the artist after she broke her leg, exhibited alongside a C-print photograph of the artist wearing the cast.
Emin has created a number of installation art pieces including Poor Thing (Sarah and Tracey) (2001) which was made up of two hanging frames, hospital gowns, a water bottle and wire. A similar installation called Feeling Pregnant III (2005) made up of fabric hung off wooden and metal coat hangers and stands was a later creation for Emin. Both these installations touch further on Emin's relationship with pregnancy and abortion and can be related to Louise Bourgeois' sculptures such as Untitled (1996), a mobile of hanging clothes, and Untitled (2007), a series of standing bronze sculptures.
The Perfect Place to Grow (2001) was a video installation with a set consisting of a wooden birdhouse, a DVD (shot on Super 8), monitor, trestle, plants, wooden ladder. This installation has been exhibited at the Tate Britain in 2004 in their room dedicated to Emin's work and also White Cube in 2001. It was dedicated to her father, creating the bird house as a tiny home for my dad and Emin thought of the works' title from the idea of nature and nurture.
Knowing My Enemy (2002) was a large scale installation created by Emin for her Modern Art Oxford solo show of that year. Consisting of reclaimed wood and steel, Emin created a wooden 'look-out' house upon a long, broken, wooden pier. It's Not the Way I Want to Die (2005) was another large scale installation, part of Emin's 2005 solo show at White Cube. Emin created a large rollercoaster track with reclaimed timber and metal. Displayed in the same show was a smaller installation work called Self Portrait (2005) which consisted of a tin bath, bamboo, wire and neon light. Another related installation Sleeping With You (2005) consisted of painted reclaimed timber and a thin neon light across a dark wall.
Emin featured with her then boyfriend, Billy Childish, in Quiet Lives (1982) (11 mins, 16mm, written and directed by Eugene Doyen), once available with Cheated and Room for Rent in A Hangman Triple Bill, also known as The Hangman Trilogy, Hangman Films. Quiet Lives is discussed in an article on Childish's films in No Focus: punk on film (Headpress, 2006).
An autobiographical work is the film, CV Cunt Vernacular (1997), in which Emin narrates her story from childhood in Margate, through her student years, abortions and destruction of her early work.
Top Spot (2004) was Emin's first feature film. Taking its title from a youth centre/disco in Margate (but also a sexual reference), Top Spot, draws heavily on Emin's teenage experiences of growing up in Margate, and features six teenage girls who share their stories. It is also regarded as Emin’s poem to Margate, mixing DV footage and Super 8 film into lyrical montage. The natural beauty of the sea and the sunsets is linked with Margate’s more manmade pleasures, underscored with a selection of 1970s songs that formed the soundtrack to the artist’s own adolescence. It was shot during the summertime in Margate, London, and Egypt. Emin responded by withdrawing the film from general distribution, though it has since been broadcast. A DVD of the film was released in 2004.
In February 2005, Emin's first public artwork, a bronze sculpture, went on display outside the Oratory, adjacent to Liverpool Cathedral. It consists of a small bird perched on a tall bronze pole, and is designed so that the bird seems to disappear when viewed from the front. It was commissioned by the BBC. "Emin's work stands outside The Oratory, in Upper Duke Street just outside the Cathedral. The Roman Standard - which features a small bird on top of a four-metre high bronze pole - is a tribute to the city's famous symbol the Liver Bird. The sculpture was commissioned by the BBC as part of their contribution to the art05 festival and Liverpool's year as European Capital of Culture in 2008. Emin says the sculpture represents strength and femininity." In September 2008, Emin will unveil a brand new neon work that will "be installed in the well of the cathedral" Emin herself says of her continuing relationship of making public sculptures in the town, "When Liverpool is Capital of Culture in 2008, I'll be making a large work for the Anglican Cathedral, which I'm really looking forward to."
Other sculptures have included Death Mask (2002) which is a bronze cast of her own head. Emin loaned this work to the National Portrait Gallery in 2005,
At Emin's 2007 Venice Biennale exhibition, as well as the central exhibition's Tower sculptures, tall wooden towers consisting of small pieces of timber piled together, a new small bronze-cast sculpture work of a child's pink sock was revealed Sock (2007) on display on the steps of the British Pavilion. In September 2007, Emin announced she'll be exhibiting new sculpture work in the inaugural Folkestone Triennial which will take place in the Kent town from June until September 2008. In June 2008, Emin discussed the Folkestone sculptures, stating the "high percentage" of teenage pregnancies in the Kent town had inspired this latest work. Emin said her contribution would be different pieces placed around the town,
Emin's 2007 solo show at Gagosian Gallery in Los Angeles' Beverly Hills included brand new sculpture works described by Emin as, "some very strange little sculptures. They are nearly all of animals, apart from one, which is a pineapple. They rest on mini-plinths made in a really brilliant LA, beach, California, Fifties surfer kind of style. Different woods put together in cute pattern formations. In some places the wood is 18th-century floorboards, some bits of cabin from tall ships or things which could have been found on the seashore – driftwood." The New York Times included Emin in a piece about artists who are Originals with a new photograph with two sculptures, one of a small bird on a thin stand and a large seagull, both sculptures placed upon wooden plinths.Gagosian further described the many different sculptures from the show as, "a group of delicate wood and jesmonite sculptures, which expand on the spirals, rollercoasters, and bridges of recent years. Others incorporate cast bronze figures – seagulls, songbirds, and frogs — or objects combining cement and glass, which are placed on tables or bundled bases made from found timbers."
In late November 2007, it was announced that Emin was one of six artists to have been shortlisted to propose a sculpture for the fourth plinth in London's Trafalgar Square. Antony Gormley, the artist behind the Angel of the North, and Turner Prize-nominated Yinka Shonibare are also in the running. The contenders have been commissioned to produce a scale model of their idea. On January 6th 2008, it was revealed Emin's proposal was a lifesize model of a group of four meerkats, the desert mammal. Entitled Something for the Future it consists of a sculpture of four meerkats "as a symbol of unity and safety." as "whenever Britain is in crisis or, as a nation, is experiencing sadness and loss (for example, after Princess Diana's funeral), the next programme on television is 'Meerkats United.'" The successful proposal will be announced in 2008 and the new winning work unveiled in 2009. The other shortlisted artists are Turner Prize-winner Jeremy Deller, Anish Kapoor, and Bob and Roberta Smith - the professional name of Patrick Brill.
In common with many YBAs, including Damien Hirst, Emin employs assistants for fabrication purposes, for example sewing the lettering onto her appliquéd pieces.
Work becomes art when it is defined as such by her. A poster she photocopied and put up around her home when her cat Docket went missing became an object collected by people, but was excluded by her from her canon.
In 2000 Emin was commissioned, as part of a scheme throughout London titled Art in Sacred Spaces, to collaborate with children on an artwork at Ecclesbourne Primary School in Islington, North London. Pupils made the piece with her in Emin's style of sewing cut out letters onto a large piece of material. In 2004, the school enquired if Emin would sign the work so that the school could sell it as an original to raise funds. They planned to auction the piece for £35,000 for an arts unit, as it could not afford to display the large work. Emin and her gallery White Cube refused saying that it was not a piece of her art, therefore reducing its value and requested it be returned. But Emin quickly came to an agreement with the school, where she paid £4,000 to create a perspex display box for the patchwork quilt to be showcased. Taking as her theme the title "Tell me something beautiful", Emin invited eight-year-olds to nominate their ideas of beauty and then to sew the keywords in felt letters on bright fabric squares. The resulting bold patchwork, featured words such as "tree", "sunrise", "dolphin" and "nan". Art critic John Slyce, who has worked on school collaborations with artists, supported Emin and White Cube's decision saying, "This is a horrific precedent for the school to try to set. They were lucky to have an artist of that stature spending that amount of time with them ... the artwork should remain in context with the kids. Children's primary experience of art should not be as a commodity."
On 24 May 2004, a fire in a Momart storage warehouse in East London destroyed many works from the Saatchi collection, including Emin's famous tent with appliquéd letters, Everyone I Have Ever Slept With 1963–1995 ("The Tent") (1995) and The Last Thing I Said To You Is Don't Leave Me Here ("The Hut") (1999), Emin's blue wooden beach hut that she bought with fellow artist Sarah Lucas and shared with her boyfriend of the time, the gallerist Carl Freedman. Emin spoke out angrily against the general public lack of sympathy, and even amusement, at the loss of the artworks in the fire. However, she also put the loss in perspective, commenting:
In August 2006, the British Council announced that they had chosen Emin to produce a show of new and past works for the British Pavilion at the 52nd Venice Biennale in 2007. Emin was the second woman to produce a solo show for the UK at the Biennale, following Rachel Whiteread in 1997. In a BBC interview, Andrea Rose, the commissioner for the British Pavilion, said the exhibition would allow Emin's work to be viewed "in an international context and at a distance from the YBA generation with which she came to prominence."
Emin has chosen the title Borrowed Light for the in-depth exhibition of her work which will open to the public on 10 June 2007. The artist has produced new work especially for the British Pavilion, using a wide variety of media - from needlework, photography and video to drawing, painting, sculpture and neon. A promotional British Council flyer includes an image of a previously unseen monoprint for the exhibition called Fat Minge (1994) which will be included in the show whilst the Telegraph newspaper featured a photo of a new purple neon Legs I (2007) which will be on display (directly inspired by Emin's 2004 purple watercolour Purple Virgin series. Emin herself summed up her Biennale exhibition work as,
Emin was interviewed about the Venice Biennale in her East London studio by the BBC's Kirsty Wark; this was broadcast on BBC Four television channel in November 2006. Emin showed Wark some work-in-progress, which included large-scale canvases with paintings of Emin's legs and vagina. Starting with the Purple Virgin (2004) acrylic watercolour series with their strong purple brush strokes depicting Emin's naked open legs, leading to Emin's paintings in 2005-6 such as Asleep Alone With Legs Open (2005), the Reincarnation (2005) series and Masturbating (2006) amongst others, these works are a significant new development in her artistic output.
In an interview with Lynn Barber published in The Observer newspaper the week before the launch of Emin's biennale show, the artist said of her work,
Andrea Rose, the British Pavilion commissioner, added to this commenting on the art Emin has produced, 'It's remarkably ladylike. There is no ladette work - no toilet with a poo in it - and actually it is very mature I think, quite lovely. She is much more interested in formal values than people might expect, and it shows in this exhibition. It's been revelatory working with her. Tracey's reputation for doing shows and hanging them is not good, but she's been a dream to work with. What it shows is that she's moved a long way away from the YBAs. She's quite a lady actually!'
Royal Academician (2007)
On 29 March 2007, Tracey Emin was made Royal Academician by the Royal Academy of Arts. Emin became a member of the Royal Academy joining an elite group of artists including David Hockney, Peter Blake, Anthony Caro and Alison Wilding. This entitles Emin to exhibit up to six works in the annual summer exhibition.
Emin has a long history of exhibiting her art at the Royal Academy, having been invited to include works at their Summer Exhibitions in 2007, 2006, 2005, 2004 and 2001. For 2004's Summer Exhibition, Emin was chosen by fellow artist David Hockney to submit two monoprints, one called And I'd Love To Be The One (1997) and another on the topic of Emin's abortion called Ripped Up (1995) as that year's theme celebrated the art of drawing as part of the creative process. Whilst 2007 saw Emin exhibit a neon work called Angel (2005). Emin's art was first included at the Royal Academy as part of the Sensation exhibition in 1997.
For the June 2008 Summer Exhibition, Emin has been invited to curate a gallery. Emin will also give a public talk in June 2008 interviewed by art critic and broadcaster Matthew Collings, contemplating her role within the Royal Academy, the Academy’s relationship to the contemporary art world, and her perspective, as an artist, on hanging and curating a gallery in the Summer Exhibition.
Stuckists use a cut-out of Emin in 2001 to demonstrate against the Turner Prize
Emin's relationship with the artist and musician Billy Childish led to the name of the Stuckism movement in 1999. Childish, who had mocked Emin's new affiliation to conceptualism in the early '90s, was told by Emin, "Your paintings are stuck, you are stuck! – Stuck! Stuck! Stuck!" (that is, stuck in the past for not accepting the YBA approach to art). He recorded the incident in the poem, "Poem for a Pissed Off Wife" published in "Big Hart and Balls" Hangman Books 1994, from which Charles Thomson, who knew them both, later coined the term Stuckism.
Emin and Childish had remained on friendly terms up until 1999, but the activities of the Stuckist group offended her and caused a lasting rift with Childish. In a 2003 interview, she was asked about the Stuckists:
Childish left The Stuckist movement in 2001.
Emin is well known for her charity work including raising over a million pounds for children's charities such as the NSPCC and for HIV/AIDS charities including the Terrence Higgins Trust. Emin frequently donates original artworks for charity auctions, and has often adopted the role of auctioneer on the charity night to help increase the highest bid.
In June 2007, on returning from the Venice Biennale, Emin donated a piece of artwork, a handsewn blanket called Star Trek Voyager to be auctioned at Elton John's annual glamorous White Tie & Tiara Ball to raise money for The Elton John AIDS Foundation. The piece of artwork sold for £800,000. Also in June 2007, Emin's neon work Keep Me Safe reached the highest price ever (at that time) made for one of her neon works of over £60,000.
Emin has participated in The Independent newspaper's Christmas Appeal for many years, where she has offered for auction bespoke artworks and also drawing lessons with the artist. In December 2006, Emin's lot raised £14,000 for a one-on-one drawing lesson, over champagne and cake, with the artist. The following year, in December 2007, Emin's lot raised £25,150 their appeal offering a special unique drawing of the highest bidder's pet embroidered on to a cushion in Emin's trademark style
In January 2008, Emin went to Uganda where she had set up a brand new library in a rural school called Forest High School, Emin launched the Tracey Emin Library, "Schools here don't have libraries. In fact, rural areas have very little. Most have no doctor, no clinic, no hospital; schools are few and far between. Education cannot afford to be a priority, but it should be." and also said, "I think this library may be just the beginning."
On Valentines Day February 2008, Emin donated a red neon artwork called I Promise To Love You (2007) for a charity auction to raise money for The Global Fund, which helps women and children affected by HIV/AIDS in Africa. The auction was called (Auction) RED. The work sold for a record price $220,000, which was much higher than the guide estimates of between $60,000 and $80,000.