arts and design

Tracey Emin claims she has been ‘overlooked’ as an artist

Tracey Emin claims she has been “overlooked” as an artist and that people have not understood the gravity of her work.

The 58-year-old shot to fame, and notoriety, in the 90s with her appliquéd tent, Everyone I Have Ever Slept With 1963-1995, and has been in the spotlight ever since. But she said people have not understood the “seriousness” of her art.

Instead, she told BBC Radio 4’s This Cultural Life, she was written off as a “narcissistic, deranged, screaming banshee”.

Her recent exhibitions include a 2018 neon sign in St Pancras station in London that reads “I want my time with you” and last year her paintings, neons and sculpture were exhibited alongside those of Edvard Munch at the Royal Academy.

When asked whether her painting had been overlooked, she said: “No, I think I’ve been overlooked. I think they just thought I was some sort of narcissistic, deranged, screaming banshee.”

In the interview, to be broadcast on Saturday night, Emin said that life as an artist is “really lonely”.

“You cannot be an artist hanging out at a giant party, it’s never going to work,” she said.

“There’s a part of you that has to go deep inside, like I say, ‘inside the cave’, and if you don’t go inside the cave, you’re never going to make any art. You need to be able to stand and see yourself to be able to make the art.”

Last year she was diagnosed with bladder cancer, but after undergoing a series of operations she announced in April that it had gone.

On her recovery, she said her life was saved by medical science – and love, saying she fell in love just before getting her cancer diagnosis.

“My surgeon was lovely,” she said. “A robot actually did all my surgery, which is quite incredible. But I think love saved me. I really think love saved me this time, not art. I fell in love just before I found out I had cancer.”

Emin also told how a chance encounter with David Bowie in a Lebanese restaurant in Kensington in 1996 led to her becoming friends with the late musician.

“Someone leaned over the table and said, ‘I’m very sorry to interrupt, my name’s David and I just want to say how much I love your work.’ And I looked up and David Bowie’s looking at me, and I said: ‘Likewise’,” she said.

“And we became friends. It was just amazing that the only person I was ever a massive starstruck fan of, I became friends with.”


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