“the narcissism behind what I do—the self, self, self—and how difficult it is for me to really share things, even though I think I am sharing all the time.”
– TRACEY EMIN
Tracey Emin, CBE, RA is an English artist, born 3rd July 1963. She is part 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 held at the Royal Academy in London. The same year, she gained considerable media exposure when she swore multiple times on a live discussion programme on British television.
Tracey Emin had her first solo exhibition in the United States at Lehmann Maupin Gallery in 1999, entitled Every Part of Me's Bleeding. Later that year, she was nominated for a Turner Prize and exhibited "My Bed" – an installation, consisting of her own unmade dirty bed with blood-stained underwear and used condoms. The bed was presented in the state that Emin claimed it had been when she said she had not got up from it for several days due to suicidal depression brought on by relationship difficulties.
Emin is a panellist and speaker and has lectured at the Royal Academy of Arts, Tate Britain, the Victoria and Albert Museum in London, the European Graduate School in Saas-Fee, Switzerland and the Art Gallery of New South Wales in Sydney about the links between creativity and autobiography, and the role of subjectivity and personal histories in constructing art. Tracey Emin's art takes many different forms of expression including photography and painting, drawing, needlework and sculpture, video and installation.
In December 2011, she was appointed Professor of Drawing at the Royal Academy London. Along with Fiona Rae, she is one of the first two female professors since the Academy was founded in 1768.
Tracey Emin was born in Croydon, England to an English mother of Romani descent and was brought up in Margate, a seaside town in Kent. She has a twin brother, Paul. Emin's paternal great-grandfather had been a Sudanese slave in the Ottoman Empire. Through her father, she is of Turkish Cypriot descent. She suffered an unreported rape at age 13 while living in Margate, citing assaults in the area as "what happened to a lot of girls." Emin's work has been analysed within the context of early adolescent and childhood abuse, as well as sexual assault.
She studied fashion at Medway College of Design in Kent (1980–1982), where she met excluded student Billy Childish and was associated with The Medway Poets. Emin and Childish were a couple until 1987 during which time she was the administrator for his small press Hangman Books which specialized in publishing Billy 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 Emin, "Which person do you think has had the greatest influence on your life?" She replied, "Uhmm... It's not a person really. It was more a time, going to Maidstone College of Art, hanging around with Billy Childish, living by the River Medway."
Tracey Emin moved to London to study at the Royal College of Art in 1987, where she obtained an MA in painting. Unaware that she was pregnant with twins, she had both an abortion and a subsequent miscarriage. This experience proved so traumatic that Emin destroyed all her work and described the period as "emotional suicide." One of the paintings that survived from her time at Royal College of Art is Friendship, an artwork which is in the Royal College of Art Collection. Additionally, a series of photographs from her early work that were not destroyed were displayed as part of "My Major Retrospective". Emin's influences included Edvard Munch and Egon Schiele. She currently lives in Spitalfields, East London on Fournier Street in a Georgian Huguenot silk weaver's house which dates from 1726.
A prominent member of the Young British Artists (YBAs), Tracey Emin works in a wide range of mediums, including film, painting, neon, embroidery, drawing, installation, and sculpture. Her work is intensely personal, revealing intimate details of her life with brutal honesty and poetic humour. She has spoken of “the narcissism behind what I do—the self, self, self—and how difficult it is for me to really share things, even though I think I am sharing all the time.” This paradoxical approach—at once audacious and confessional, narcissistic and self-deprecatory—earned Emin a nomination for the Turner Prize in 1999. Though she did not win, Emin received significant acclaim for her installation titled My Bed, which featured the artist’s unmade bed surrounded by personal items (from slippers to empty liquor bottles, cigarette butts, and condoms), exploring the allegorical qualities of a bed as a place of birth, sex, and death.