Known for her unflinching studies of past experiences, trauma, sexuality and emotions, YBA queen Tracey Emin’s trailblazing career has divided opinion since the 1990s. Buy and sell original prints and editions by leading artist Emin. We can value your print for free with zero obligation to sell and offer market advice on any work in Emin's portfolio.
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YBA heavyweight and controversial, confessional, artist Tracey Emin is best known for her intimate sketches, sculptures and installations. Her practice spans painting, embroidery, film, drawing, sculpture and neon, yet remains grounded in themes of love, desire, pain, grief and the female experience.
Born in South London in 1963, Emin was brought up by her family in Margate, Kent. In 1987, Emin moved to London to study painting at the Royal College of Art. After graduating, Emin went through two abortions. This experience of pain, loss and loneliness proved fundamental in the development of her artistic vocabulary. Emin's works are instantly recognisable in their autobiographical and intimate quality and have won over the heart of even the most sceptics. In 1999, this raw approach to storytelling won her a nomination to the Turner Prize and, in 2007, it got her a coveted spot as a Royal Academician at the Royal Academy of Arts (RA).
Emin had her first solo exhibition Every Part of Me’s Bleeding at the Lehmann Maupin Gallery in 1999. The show contained works across a variety of mediums, including the installation that helped to launch her career and reputation, Everyone I Have Ever Slept With 1963-1995, or The Tent (1994). Presented at the Young British Artist's show, this work consisted of a canvas tent, with 102 names of every person Emin had ‘slept’ with sewn into the walls.
Another of Emin’s most notorious works is her installation My Bed, for which she got nominated to the Turner Prize in 1999. An iconic Tracey Emin artwork, My Bed was created in response to Emin’s grief following a breakup and made no attempt to hide the ugly reality. Consisting of the artist’s own bed, we see soiled sheets and underwear, empty alcohol bottles, condoms, and even bodily fluids utilised by Emin here. This work recreated the physical aftermath of what the artist called her “mini nervous breakdown” where she did not leave her bed for four days. Despite Emin not winning the Turner Prize that year, her name was irrevocably solidified in the leading contemporary art scene.
In addition to her shocking installations, Emin is well known for her neon works and her drawings, many of which self-portraits, where all of her fragility best come to life. Her Nude Drawings and Nude Self-Portraits series show the artist at her most vulnerable, unafraid of showing her true self. In her neon works, the artist communicates her emotions directly with the viewer through short, often intentionally misspelled, phrases. As Emin claims, “neon is emotional for everybody.”
The most expensive artwork by Emin at auction, My Bed bares the artist’s soul and grief after a breakup. In 1998, “I had a kind of mini nervous breakdown in my very small flat and didn’t get out of bed for four days,” Emin recalled. Looking at the chaos around her, she had an epiphany that her bedroom could be an installation piece and “it looked fucking brilliant” she realised.
My Bed was shortlisted for the Turner Prize in 1999 to much controversy and was purchased by art collector and patron Charles Saatchi a year later. Saatchi put the work up for auction at Christie’s in London on 1 July 2014, where it achieved £2.5 million – more than twice its high estimate and set an auction record for Emin.
Mad Tracey From Margate, Everyone’s Been There © Tracey Emin 1997
“I have always treated my blanket-making more like a painting in terms of building up layers and textures,” Emin said of her textile artworks. “I have never called them quilts. I have always called them blankets. They were most definitely blankets at the beginning because they were made with the intention of going on a bed.” When she sold her first blanket artwork Hotel International in 1994, Emin went to bed and “cried at the idea of [the work] going away”.
Mad Tracey From Margate. Everyone’s Been There, created in 1997, stitches together memories of the artist’s childhood growing up in the coastal town of Margate (which she writes more about in her memoir, Strangeland, published in 2005). The heartfelt early work was offered at Christie’s Post-War & Contemporary Art Evening Sale in London on 16 October 2014, where it sold for £722,500.
Exorcism Of The Last Painting I Ever Made © Tracey Emin 1996
A ground-breaking conceptual piece, Exorcism Of The Last Painting I Ever Made was the result of a three-week performance at Stockholm’s Galleri Andreas Brändström in 1996. Working nude under the observation of gallery visitors, Emin completed 12 canvases, seven body paintings and 79 works on paper. She thought she would burn the lot in a ceremonial pyre at the end of the show but ultimately changed her mind.
Exorcism of the Last Painting – which included everything in the exhibition, from Emin’s art to the music CDs she worked to – was offered at Christie’s in London on 11 February 2005, where it sold for £722,500.
Image © Sotheby's / You Are There Now © Tracey Emin 2017