Tracey Emin retrospective, London
Tracey Emin’s work may be as depraved, egotistical and confrontational as ever - there’s even a used tampon thrown into one of her new pieces - but she’s never been more in favour. Not only has she been swept up in the arms of the Hayward Gallery this month, which is staging a major retrospective of her work, but she’s also being embraced by Louis Vuitton. The luxury fashion brand is currently both showing her work in store and flaunting a limited edition hand-rolled, hand-stitched silk scarf by Emin as its latest must-have item.
But let’s start with the Hayward Gallery. For someone who has exposed just about every aspect of her life, it’s amazing we’ve not had enough of Emin. Yet it’s hard not to be absorbed by the way the British artist pieces together and packages the fragments of her existence - as embroidered scrawl on blankets and chairs, short-but-potent films and intense neon statements, all represented in this exhibition.
The works here (over 170 in total) have an extraordinary narrative pull, with a speedy stroll around the show likely to take several hours. Sure there’s some repetition: the endless self-pity and the constant cries to be loved. But there’s also huge poignancy to her work, particularly pieces like ’Knowing My Enemy’ (2002) - a vast sculpture of a collapsed pier, with a hut at the end. Made in response to a letter from her father (framed on the wall of the gallery), it’s her vision of the safe haven he longed for but could never quite reach.
But it’s her drawings that capture us most, which are given a whole room at the Hayward Gallery: those fraught, trembling lines, sometimes incarnated as monoprints or etchings, other times as stitching. Which brings us neatly back to Louis Vuitton. In its New Bond Street Maison, the fashion brand has given over its Exhibition Space and Libraire - where it commissions, exhibits and sells limited edition works and books by artists (see W*136) - to Emin’s works, in particular her prints.
Hung in the Libraire are eight new etchings by Emin, bearing her inimitable scrawl. Produced in collaboration with Counter Editions and Carl Freedman Gallery, these are encased in an Emin-designed leather case and the complete box set is being sold in an edition of ten. You can also pick up one of 50 hand-rolled, hand-stitched silk scarves, entitled ’Sex 21 Sydney (2011)’.