Tracey Emin: 20 Years
Emin thrills… and disappoints
This article is from 2008.
Tracey Emin seems to polarise opinion – just check out the online comments on her column in The Independent. One of Britain’s most recognisable YBA artists, she’s been nominated for the Turner Prize and represented Britain at the Venice Biennale, but mention her name and you may have to wait a little while for the tutting and eye-rolling to stop. So it will be interesting to see the reaction to the Gallery of Modern Art’s flagship summer exhibition: Emin’s first museum retrospective, covering 20 years of work.
Alongside her famous appliquéd blankets are a plethora of works, including installations, sculptures, paintings, prints, neon and film pieces. Many artworks incorporate hand written pieces of text, which are worth reading. Her sculptures aren’t particularly exciting, and some of the later blankets are also pretty dull, although there are some beautiful embroidered pieces featuring female figures adapted from her drawings.
However, after a couple of rooms you may begin to suffer Tracey-fatigue: her work is famously autobiographical, but her relentless presence can become extremely wearing. Even ‘My Bed’, which is surprisingly sad and diminutive in scale, features a blurry polaroid of Emin’s face on a side-table.
Emin has created some genuinely touching, sensitive and important work: her drawings and writings about her abortions are extremely powerful, and she sometimes elicits real insights. As an important female artist, who has mined her past for source material, let’s hope that the overexposure of her ‘girl-about-town’ media persona hasn’t blunted the impact of her art.
National Gallery of Modern Art, 0131 624 6200, until 9 Nov, 10am-6pm, £6 (£4)