An artist who shows the most sordid aspects of her life, without fear of seeming vulgar. She describes herself as “alcoholic, neurotic, psychotic and degenerate,” although she suspects that “if other people questioned themselves the same way, they would probably reach the same conclusion.” Perhaps this is why her followers can be counted in the thousands, especially among women under 25. Some critics believe that her influence is due to the fact that Tracey Emin depicts the predominant culture of the early twenty-first century, when being famous means little more than having appeared in some reality show where people argue, insult each other and mate.
Tracey Emin was born in London, but she grew up in Margate, a small coastal town south of the British capital. She never completed her elementary studies, although she received classes at the Royal College of Art. The “enfant terrible” discovered by Charles Saatchi in the early 90s didn’t know how to draw, but she possessed amazing audacity. In 1995 she exhibited an installation that contained the names of the more than one hundred men with whom she had had sexual relations throughout her life. The spectators who wished to read them had to crawl into the tent where the names had been appliquéd on the walls. In 1999 she also attracted the attention of the mass media with an installation exhibited at the Tate Gallery in London in which there was a bed with stained sheets, covered with condoms, half empty bottles and other objects alluding to intense sexual activity with all types of excesses. It was called “My Bed” and the museum management felt the need to put up a sign at the entrance warning that the show might be offensive to some viewers.
Tracey Emin’s Art is confessional, nostalgic and tormented, the result of terrible experiences, such as being raped when she was 13 years old as well as her successive abortions that left her sterile, which she refers to so often in her work. Her most scathing critics accuse her of playing the victim, being self-centered and obsessed with sex, but her work seems to exert a hypnotic effect on people who had previously discredited it mercilessly. An exhibitionist to extremes, Emin has photographed herself nude on many occasions and has shamelessly shown the inside of her genitals by means of photographs taken with a Polaroid camera.
Since the age of 44, she has been a member of the Royal Academy of Arts of London, despite protests by more veteran Academy members, and in 2007 she represented Great Britain at the Biennale in Venice. A year later, the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art in Edinburgh dedicated a major retrospective show to her, which has been requested by museums from other countries such as Spain and Switzerland. Her drawings, prints, photographs and installations are included in important public and private collections all over the world, as well as her work with neon lights and her embroidered blankets that allude to love, sex and religion.