Tracey Emin

For me, aggression, sex and beauty go together. Much of my work has been about memory, for example, but memories of violence and pain. Nowadays if I make a drawing I'm trying to draw love, but love isn't always gentle.

Tracey Emin, part of the genre-breaking Young British Artists and once the “bad girl of British art,” makes intensely confessional art that subverts traditional expectations of women.

She is perhaps best known for 1999’s “My Bed,” an installation at London’s Tate Gallery of a disheveled, filthy bed, which shocked the viewing public and was shortlisted for the Turner Prize.

Her work, visually influenced by the German Expressionists and Egon Schiele, viscerally explores emotions and traumas, often in mediums like embroidery or appliqué traditionally considered “craft” or “women’s work”

Solo Shows
Haus der Kunst, Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam, MALBA
Group Shows
Tate Britain, MoMA PS1, Whitechapel Gallery, Brooklyn Museum, and many more
Reviewed in
Artforum, frieze, Art in America, The Guardian + more
Collected By
MoMa, Tate London

Young British Artist Tracey Emin, whose name was once unutterable without the phrase “bad girl” or “enfant terrible” appended to it, makes unapologetic and deeply confessional work that challenges societal norms of femininity and proper British womanhood. She catapulted into public consciousness with the Turner-Prize-shortlisted “My Bed,” a filthy, detritus-covered and body-fluid-soaked bed installed in 1999 at London’s Tate Gallery, and has been a near-constant presence on the British art scene ever since. Much like Louise Bourgeois, with whom Emin collaborated before Bourgeois’s death in 2010, Emin places an especial emphasis on mediums like embroidery and appliqué that are frequently relegated to the realm of “craft” or “woman’s work.”

Over the course of her career, Emin has never shied away from the personal; her art, visually influenced by the German Expressionists and Egon Schiele, viscerally explores personal traumas such as public humiliation, sexual violence, a botched abortion and betrayal. The last two decades have seen her intensely confessional pieces occupy a range of mediums including neon, painting, film, embroidery and bronze. Intimacy and vulnerability are hallmarks of Emin’s work, both in terms of the subject material and what the work demands of the viewer. Her installation Everyone I’ve Ever Slept With 1963-1995, a tent appliquéd inside with quite literally everyone Emin had shared a bed with up to that point, required the viewer to physically crawl inside to read it. Emin’s neon work, like the large-scale installation I Want My Time With You in London’s St. Pancras station, explores open-ended themes of romance, intimacy and emotion, with often-ambiguous words or phrases in her own handwriting left to the viewer to interpret.

Emin, who now describes herself as being “in the third and final stage of her life”, currently plans to turn a studio in her hometown of Margate into a museum after she dies. In 2020, a 7-meter-tall bronze sculpture of a kneeling woman designed by Emin will be fabricated and installed on Oslo’s Museum Island in conjunction with the establishment of the new Munch Museum.