Occupation: Installation Artist; Painter; Art Educator
Movement: Young British Artists
Education: Medway College of Design, Kent; Maidstone Art College, Kent; Royal College of Art, London
“Love Poem,” 1993
“My Coffin,” 1996-97
“Mad Tracey from Margate, Everyone’s Been There,” 1997
“My Bed,” 1998
“To Meet My Past,” 2002
“Feeling Pregnant,” 2006
“People Like You Need to Fuck People Like Me,” 2007
Tracey Emin is a British visual artist whose work spans a variety of mediums and serves as an autobiographical account of her disturbing history. Much of her compositions are explicit and confrontational, drawing upon her sexual experiences and emotional state.
Born in Croydon in the summer of 1963, Tracey Emin is of mixed descent, with Romanichal blood on her maternal side and Sudanese and Turkish Cypriot on her father’s. She was raised in South London with her twin brother Paul and became exposed to sexual violence at an early age when she was raped by a local youth in Margate. She was an adolescent at the time and the crime went unreported, though she cites the experience as one shared by a large number of girls living in the neighborhood.
After graduating from secondary school, she enrolled at the Medway College of Design to study fashion and came into contact with Billy Childish, who had been recently expelled from the academy. They began living together and, through her association with him, Emin became involved with the Medway Poets. In the mid-1980s, he became a pupil at the Maidstone Art College where she majored in printing, later describing the experience as a formative time in her creative growth. She simultaneously served as administrator for Childish’s press, Hangman Books, established in order to publish his confessional poetry. At the end of their affair in 1987, she left for the Royal College of Art in London to pursue a master’s degree. It was a particularly difficult transitional phase, as she discovered she was pregnant and opted for an abortion, unaware she was carrying twins. Hence, she suffered a traumatic miscarriage after the medical procedure and destroyed all her previous work.
In 1993, Emin opened The Shop in London’s East End with the artist Sarah Lucas, selling t-shirts and curios they created together, including ashtrays stamped with Damien Hirst’s picture at the bottom. To supplement the salary she earned minding the store, she also wrote letters to prominent dealers and collectors asking for small investments in her art. It was through such measures that she met Jay Jopling, who became one of her primary patrons and arranged for her first one-woman exhibition at the White Cube titled “My Major Retrospective.” The show, designed to be intimate to say the least, consisted of old photographs and memorabilia, mapping her history through objects most familiar to her. The artist’s tendency for full disclosure soon became one of the trademarks of her work.
It was around this time that she began a relationship with the writer and curator Carl Freedman, who championed the Young British Artists movement in later years. In 1994, the couple traveled extensively through the Unite States, driving a Cadillac from California to New York while Emin made intermittent stops in order to deliver public readings from “Exploration of the Soul.” She began work on “Everyone I Have Ever Slept with 1963-95” after an argument with Freedman in which he suggested she should create art on a larger scale. The show, initially thought of as a showcase of her sexual conquests, was more an exploration of intimacy and included the names of both her aborted children, her twin brother and those she shared a bed with as a child. The piece, comprised of embroidered names inside a tent, was purchased by Charles Saatchi and exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1997. Despite this early success, it was not until an alcohol-fueled outburst on national television that Emin became well known in England.
Subsequently, the artist was shortlisted for the Turner Prize and exhibited “My Bed” at the Tate Modern, an installation reflecting her state of mind while grappling with suicidal thoughts and depression. To capitalize on the momentum created by her nomination, she showcased a series of portraits of Princess Diana at the Blue Gallery to considerable acclaim. Portraits of other celebrities such as Kate Moss, Kenny Goss and George Michael followed “Temple of Diana,” much to the chagrin of ex-lover Billy Childish, who objected to her interest in conceptualism. He coined the term Stuckism for her brand of work, creating a deep rift between them.
In the mid-2000s, Emin was elected to the Royal Academy of Arts in London, a far cry from her youthful reputation as an enfant terrible. She went on to accept a faculty position there 2011, becoming one of two women to serve as professors since the institute’s inception in the 18th century.
1963 - Born in London
1986 - Graduates from the Maidstone College of Art
1989 - Receives her Master’s Degree from the Royal College of Art
1997 - Receives an award for video art
1999 - Nominated for the Turner Prize
2001 - Wins the Jury Prize at the Cairo Biennale
2007 - The Royal College presents her with an honorary doctorate
1993 - White Cube, London
1994 - White Cube, Cologne
1996 - Galerie Mot & Van den Boogaard, Brussels
1997 - Moo Gallery, Helsinki Istanbul Biennale
1998 - Sagacho Exhibition Space, Tokyo
1999 - Lehmann Maupin, New York
2002 - Modern Art Oxford Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam
2006 - Galleria Lorcan O’Neill, Rome
2009 - Kunstmuseum Bern
2010 - Royal Academy of Arts, London
2012 - White Cube, Sao Paolo
2013 - London Jewish Museum of Art
Museum of Modern Art, New York
National Galleries of Scotland, Edinburgh
Tate Gallery, London
Frans Hals Museum, Haarlem
The Mattress Factory, Pittsburgh
Goetz Collection, Munich
Castello di Rivoli Museum of Contemporary Art, Torino
Brooklyn Museum, New York
“Angel Without You” by Tracey Emin and Bonnie Clearwater
“Strangeland” by Tracey Emin
“Feelings: Soft Art” by Tracey Emin and John Baldessari
“I Followed You to the Sun” by Tracey Emin
“The Art of Tracey Emin” by Mandy Merck and Chris Townsend
“Tracey Emin: Love is What You Want” by Michael Corris and Jennifer Doyle