She’s brilliant and British

tracey emir oil portrait

By Lauren Edwards

I am by no means an experienced art collector. I like to have a mooch around the Tate Modern every now and then, and I find it fascinating to see original art in the homes of friends and family and the reasons behind their purchases. However, I have always struggled to get my head around a lot of modern art pieces, in particular, the works of Tracey Emin.  

Tracey Emin has married a rock | British GQ | British GQ

Tracey Emin is a British artist who shot to fame in the 1990s. Her bold and outrageous art installations divided critics, but the art world embraced her brave designs. In 1997, at a Charles Saatchi exhibition, held at the Royal Academy in London, Emin displayed her work Everyone I Have Ever Slept With 1963-1995. This consisted of a tent adorned with the 102 names of all of the people that she had shared a bed with during this period: lovers, friends, and family members.  

In 1999, Emin became a shortlisted artist for the highly respected Turner Prize award with perhaps her most famous piece of art, My Bed. Exhibited at the Tate Gallery, Emin’s actual unmade bed was surrounded by empty cigarette packets, dirty underwear, vodka bottles and condoms. Emin stated that she had spent four days drinking, smoking, eating, sleeping, and having sex in the bed during a depressive phase in her life before putting it on display.

It was bought by Charles Saatchi for £150,000 and displayed in the Saatchi Gallery in London before Saatchi moved it into a dedicated room in his own house. In 2014, it was sold by auction at Christie’s for a whopping £2.5 million.

“What’s really good about the word ‘art’ is that ‘art’ is a word like ‘love,’ or ‘God,’ or whatever. It transcends so many things…”

Emin and her twin brother Paul were born July 1963 in Croydon. Their mother was of Romany descent and their father was of Turkish Cypriot nationality. They were brought up in Margate in Kent. Emin studied fashion at Medway College of Design and graduated with a first-class degree in Printmaking. She went on to study at the Royal College of Art in London where she obtained an MA in painting.

George Michael and his partner Kenny Goss were huge fans of Emin’s and together acquired 25 of her pieces. In 2007, Michael and Goss presented the exhibition A Tribute to Tracey Emin in Dallas, USA. It displayed a variety of Emin’s favourite works including prints, paintings and a special neon piece called George Loves Kenny.

Emin, now 58, has endured extensive surgery over the last two years to deal with a devastating bladder cancer diagnosis. After having her bladder, womb, urethra and parts of her intestines, lymph nodes and vagina removed, she has thankfully now been given the all-clear.

“I’m getting better at it. I don’t feel whole, because I had parts of me taken away, but I’ve been given something else that I didn’t have before. I am so much better and so much happier and looking forward to the future. Now I don’t mind wasting time. I feel more happy about doing nothing than ever in my life.”

Having now returned to her hometown of Margate, Emin has purchased a 30,000 square foot industrial space which she says will become a museum after she dies, displaying her extensive archive of work, including 30,000 photographs and 500 framed drawings. This will also incorporate Emin’s own art school, within the seaside town, to be name TKE Studios, after her full name Tracey Karima Emin.

“The rents are going to be so low; I’m not having people having part-time jobs and then never coming in. So, I’m setting it up so they will have time to work and paint. Students will be required to regularly put their work on public view.”

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