Tracey Emin is often referred to as the “bad girl of British art.” Her unapologetic and deeply confessional works challenge societal norms of femininity and the proper British woman. Her work focuses on personal traumatic events such as public humiliation, sexism, addiction, and promiscuity. By explicitly revealing traumatic events in her personal life, Emin shows the discrepancies in men’s and women’s ability to engage in these controversial topics through public discourse.
Emin was a founding and prominent member of the Young British Artists (YBAs), a group of artists working in London in the late 1980s. Other prominent members of the YBAs include Damien Hirst and Sarah Lucas. Works by YBAs were meant to shock and are among “some of the best known and most controversial in modern art history.” Often incorporating non-traditional art objects, such as dead animals, tissues, and found objects, their choice of subject matter and mediums make their works postmodern. According to The Art Story, members of the YBA are among some of the most financially successful artists in the world.
Love Is What You Want comes from Emin’s body of neon sculptural works, which typically display emotionally charged and narrative phrases, written in the artist’s own cursive. Emin was inspired by the mystical practices of Islamic Sufism and Rumi, the 13th-century Persian poet. As Bonnie Clearwater, Curator of the MOCA North Miami states, “when Emin is trying to discover if love exists, she is aspiring to the divine love in Rumi’s poems.” Emin’s first solo exhibition at an American Museum, Angel Without You, held at MOCA North Miami focused exclusively on her neon works.