ARTIST DOSSIER: How Tracey Emin Lured Buyers From Kate Moss to Charles Saatchi: Page 2 of 3
ARTIST DOSSIER: How Tracey Emin Lured Buyers From Kate Moss to Charles Saatchi
Such a diverse body of work takes time to study and understand, which accounts in part for Emin’s lower prices compared with other notable YBAs, according to Alexander Branczik, senior director of contemporary art at Sotheby’s London. He also notes that bidding for her work comes mostly from the U.K. and elsewhere in Europe, and to a lesser extent, the United States. “We haven’t had interest from South America or Asia yet, though that may change,” he says, since White Cube launched in Hong Kong recently and Lehmann Maupin will open there this spring.
Works on paper, mainly depicting the artist herself, have appeared at auction since 1997 and garnered up to £46,850 ($75,000), the sale price for the 2011 gouache Deep Blue III, at Christie’s London this past June. The highest price for a single photograph is £32,450 ($51,800), paid at Phillips de Pury & Company in London in February 2011 for I’ve Got It All, 2000, from an edition of six, in which the artist clutches a pile of money to her crotch.
Emin’s most commonly auctioned sculptural works are phrases in her own handwriting set in neon, usually issued in editions of three, with two artist’s proofs. Her first was The Tracey Emin Museum, 1995, which was made to hang outside the self-styled Tracey Emin Museum in Waterloo Road, London, where she traded her own work from 1995 to 1998. The artist still owns this unique work. An early example of her editioned neons is Kiss Me, Kiss Me, Cover My Body in Love, 1997; it was shown at White Cube in April 1997, when the edition sold out at £4,750 ($6,800) each. A piece from this edition later sold at Christie’s London in February 2003 for £19,120 ($31,000). Another early neon, Be Faithful to Your Dreams, 1998, went for £43,250 ($70,000) this past October at Phillips in London.
The record for a neon, and the second highest auction price for the artist, was set at Sotheby’s New York during the charity Red Sale in February 2008, when the heart-shaped I Promise to Love You, 2007, sold for $220,000. The top non-charity price for a neon is the £85,250 ($133,000) achieved at Phillips in February 2010 for another example of I Promise to Love You, from the same edition. On the primary market her neon works are currently priced between £55,000 and £100,000 ($87,000–160,000), according to Gareh.
Currently the most sought-after works, Gareh says, are Emin’s appliqué blankets or quilts, especially those that measure more than six feet square, with early examples commanding prices close to $1 million in private sales. (The artist used to make them herself, but now employs assistants.) Emin exhibited her first blanket, Hotel International — a reference to a hotel her father owned — at White Cube in 1993. It is currently in the private collection of Lehmann Maupin co-owner Rachel Lehmann and her husband, Jean-Pierre.
In 1999 Lehmann Maupin was selling Emin’s blankets for between $20,000 and $30,000. Collector Kent Logan bought one, Psycho Slut, 1999, and donated it to sfmoma. Another, Mad Tracey from Margate, 1997, is in the Goetz Collection, in Munich, while Damien Hirst’s Murderme collection holds later examples. By April 2001, White Cube in London was selling them for between £60,000 and £70,000 ($84,000 and $98,000) each. At that time, she was making only two or three a year.
The $250,000 price paid nearly three years ago for It’s the Way We Think, is both the record for a blanket and the artist’s record at a non-charity auction. (The overall record for Emin, who donates a considerable amount to charitable events, is the £800,000 [$1.5 million] exchanged at a 2007 Elton John AIDS Foundation sale for the appliqué blanket Star Trek Voyager, 2007. However this price is not representative of the primary or secondary market prices typically seen for these works.) Emin stopped making appliqué blankets in 2009, according to David Maupin, but she continues to make stitched, figurative embroideries on silk. Gareh says they retail for between £125,000 and £175,000 ($199,000 and $280,000).
She has also periodically made large sculptures — huts, towers, helter-skelters — from reclaimed wood, the likes of which were first shown at the 2007 Venice Biennale and originally sold for prices up to £350,000 ($560,000). They have risen significantly since, though none has appeared at auction.
Emin’s career entered a new stage last month when White Cube debuted its São Paulo gallery with an exhibition devoted to her work. The gallery selected Emin for the event from its impressive roster because “she is a world-class artist with a growing reputation who has never shown in Brazil and who is generating increasing international interest,” says Tim Marlowe, White Cube’s director of exhibitions. Further broadening her audience is a museum show on view through February 21 at MALBA (Latin American Art Museum of Buenos Aires), in Argentina. Her first major solo museum exhibition in the U.S. is planned at MOCA North Miami in December 2013.
Museum director Bonnie Clearwater is curating that show; she was also the first curator at an American museum to buy a work by Emin: in 1997 she purchased one of Emin’s early film works, Why I Never Became a Dancer, 1995, from Lehmann Maupin for MOCA North Miami. The film recounts how Emin entered a dance competition in her hometown but was jeered by a crowd of boys with whom she had slept; they chanted “slag, slag, slag.” The film ends with her dancing jubilantly in her own studio — a celebration of her success as an artist.