Tracey Emin’s Mid-Career Crisis The Hayward Gallery

Tracey Emin is a 47-year-old artist who has reached a mid-career crisis.  Speaking at the press view of clearly the most crucial UK exhibition of her career she exuded, “There’s no money, the country is bankrupt so the arts is going to be bottom of the list on everyone’s agenda except that the Tories have an amazing arts minister in Ed Vaizey who is particularly protective and defensive of the arts.” Also the arts cuts, they are less than they were eight years ago with the Labour government. In the present climate its amazing that there’s any money for the arts at all.”And remember, Tory people are massive collectors of the arts. For a lot of my friends, who think I’m crazy voting for the Tories. I want to know who buys their work? Who are the biggest philanthropists? I promise you, it’s not Labour voters.” Has Emin gone mad? Has she veered to the right, but still thinks in her designer clothes she is still a rebel? Some people have it. Some people are handed it and some people were lucky opportunists. Tracey was just lucky!  Emin has never been shy of a photo call. She loves to hang out with the likes of Kate Moss and other headline grabbers. Is she pure rock & Roll or just another cougar rock chick with the right designer handbag?  Her work should tell all but it has always been elusive and difficult to put your finger on. It looks good visually but is it just fluff?

Emin is a person who likes to think she can still shock. The work utilizes a formulaic lot of clichés, the swearing, the masturbation and embarrassingly the private outbursts of personal emotion which Tracey is famous for. Two important works missing from the show are her unmade bed, which Charles Saatchi is exhibiting in a 2012 show and her tent  “Everyone I Have Ever Slept With 1963-1995” a work destroyed in the Momart fire of 2004. There are however several of her blankets/quilts  with some of her darkest moments appliquéd on to them.  “I do not expect to be a mother but I do expect to die alone,” just one of the soundbites. She also is showing 16 of her imfamous neon signs including one she has made specifically for the show this has been adopted as the  title  “Love is What You Want”. Her upcoming museum exhibitions include, Turner Contemporary in her home town of Margate next year; The Brooklyn Museum in New York and MOCA in Miami.

Highlights at the Hayward Also Include:

·       A new series of large-scale outdoor sculptures created especially for the Hayward Gallery. Mother, Father, Children (2011) explores the relationships between family members, a long-standing theme in Emin’s work, and reveals a surprising and new direction to her work.

·       The largest ever presentation of her most famous appliquéd blankets – 12 in total, double hung in a spectacular installation in the exhibition’s opening gallery including Hotel International (1993) and Psyco Slut  (1999). Alongside Knowing My Enemy (2002), a partially-collapsed wooden pier that rears above visitors as they enter the exhibition. 

 ·       A series of neon art works which illuminate emotions, memories, feelings and ideas, including a new heart-shaped neon Love is What You Want (2011) are dramatically displayed along a darkened wall evoking the atmospheric nightlife of bars, clubs and amusement arcades.

 ·       Shown for the first time are a series of bonds – one of which was a small monoprint drawings with authentication stamps – the purpose of which was to fund, establish and run The Tracey Emin Museum (1995-97) set up by Emin on Waterloo Road. Shown together these showcase Emin’s early entrepreneurial talent, an aspect of her work seldom addressed.

·       The ashes of The Shop, the enterprise that Emin and Sarah Lucas set up together in the East End in 1993. For six months they made and sold their own merchandise. When The Shop closed Emin burnt its remaining contents so it could never be recreated.

·       Running Naked (2000/2011) – a new photographic work which shows the artist running naked down an East London street, reworked from a film shot originally by her ex-boyfriend the artist Mat Collishaw in 2000.

Tracey Emin
was born in 1963, she  emerged in the British art scene in the early 1990s, running ‘The Shop’ in East London with friend and artist Sarah Lucas. Around this time in a continuing entrepreneurial spirit, Emin invited friends, collectors, and dealers to ‘invest’ in her creative potential. She also began writing as a form of artistic practice. In the following years Emin had her first exhibition entitled ‘My Major Retrospective’ (1993) at White Cube gallery, her first exhibition in a public gallery at the South London Gallery (1997), and opened her own public studio/gallery space ‘The Tracey Emin Museum’ on Waterloo Road (1995-8).  These early exhibitions established Emin’s willingness to make works of art that take as their starting points the most intimate details of her personal history. Sometimes confrontational or sexually provocative, Emin’s work resonates with the ‘personal is political’ legacy of feminist art while at the same time maintaining a universal accessibility that speaks to relationships in general. 

This major survey exhibition covers every period of her career, revealing facets of the artist and her work that are often overlooked. The exhibition features painting, drawing, photography, textiles, video and sculpture, in works that are by turns tough, romantic, desperate, angry, funny and full of longing. Seldom-seen early works and recent large-scale installations are shown together with a new series of outdoor sculptures created especially for the Hayward Gallery.

So how important is this middle aged, Tory voting exhibitionist? Emin has always liked to get her picture in the papers, as mentioned. Emin recently flew to the U.S. for an operation to reduce her breasts from a 34G to a 34DD, more tabloid fodder. I guess she can now purchase better fitting designer clothes to go with her Vuitton bags! Do we really care???!!!

The exhibition at the Hayward runs from the 18th  May – 28 August  Exhibition Details

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