Emin’s first exhibition titled, Tracey Emin: My Major Retrospective 1963-1993, was in 1993 at the White Cube gallery in London. The exhibition contained over
one hundred works and collections of personal ephemerae revolving around the
life of the artist. Monoprints, drawings, wall-sized quilts with hand stitched
letters uncovered pieces of Tracey’s traumatic past. The exhibition was
described as “a mirror the life experiences to which they refer.”1 The title of the exhibition assumes that
Emin’s artistic career began the same year she was born; emphasizing the ties
between art and life. This exhibition was one of many with Emin’s inclusion of
the readymade as an art object to communicate deeply personal experiences.
Her next move as a young artist was another
ambitious and memorable one, opening The
Tracey Emin Museum, in 1995. She used the museum as a studio space and
gallery, allowing interaction between maker and viewer. It was here that she
created and displayed her first seminal work. Emin spent six months maliciously sewing the names of over one
hundred individuals that she had “slept with” onto the surface of a nylon tent;
resulting in the creation of Everyone I
Have Ever Slept With 1963-1995, also known as The Tent.2
The ambiguous title led to misinterpretation of the piece, assuming that Tracey
had in fact had sexual encounters with the names that adorned structure. Emin’s
clarification of her intent behind the piece was a commentary on the intimacy
of the bedroom, created a public spectacle of a private occasion. This was the
first time that Emin’s exploitation of her past would enter the media’s
spotlight. Other works accompanying The Tent,
were; Tracey Emin’s Cv. Cunt Vernacular,
and her autobiographical book, Exploration
of the Soul, her video work portraying her adolescent years in Margate, and
her first neon signs of handwritten text. Each of the pieces offered
unexpected, and shocking truths about Tracey Emin to which Jennifer Doyle
refers to as, “bad-sex aesthetics”3 Due to
the unanticipated volume of visitors The
Tracey Emin Museum closed just three years later. Emin’s original purpose
of the space to facilitate conversation “with ordinary who came along out of
curiosity, but by the end it was on a tourist itineraries and coach parties and
camera crews would turn up unannounced”4 had been
is important to note that Everyone I Have
Ever Slept With 1963-1995 was destroyed in a warehouse fire in 20045. She was
later offered over a million dollars to recreate the work but declined saying,
“”The Tent’s a seminal thing.
It was that moment and that time in my life. It’s me sitting in my flat in
Waterloo sewing all the names on. It took me six months to make. It just fitted
inside my living room, which was 10ft by 12ft, and the TV just fitted inside
the tent. couldn’t remake that time in my life again any more than I could
remake the piece.”6
Tracey. “My Major Retrospective.” Tracey Emin Studio. http://www.traceyeminstudio.com/exhibitions/1993/11/my-major-retrospective/.
Emin: her demons are at bay.” Lifestyle. August 25, 2004.
Jennifer. Sex objects: art and the dialectics of desire.
Minneapolis: University of Minnnesota Press, 2006.
Tracey, Patrock Elliott, and Julian Schnabel. Tracey Emin 20 years:.
Edinburgh: National Galleries of Scotland, 2008.pg. 29.
Peter. 2004. “Art Fire Payouts could Amount to ‘Tens of Millions’ SAATCHI
COLLECTION:” Financial Times, May 27, 5.
Gordon. “Burned into the memory.” The Guardian. May 27, 2004.