Tracey Emin Is Ninth Winner Of Whitechapel Art Icon Award

Tracey Emin

The Whitechapel Gallery has announced that Tracey Emin (b. 1963, UK) will be the ninth artist to receive the prestigious annual Art Icon award. On Monday 22 March 2022. The award will be presented at a celebration in the gallery.

Emin’s work is known for its portrayal of personal experience and heightened states of emotion. Frank and intimate, but universal in its relevance, her practice draw on the fundamental themes of desire and grief, unravelling the constructs of ‘woman’ and ‘self’ through painting, drawing, film, photography, sewn appliqué, sculpture and neon.

Our nominating committee was unanimous in wishing to pay tribute to Tracey Emin – Iwona Blazwick

My Bed, created in 1999, is her best-known work. After a particularly troubled period, a representation of her own Bed offers an unflinching glimpse into a state of emotional flux through its unedited, real-life accumulation of objects. Her work from this period also includes the photographic series, Naked Photos – Life Model Goes Mad (1996), which will be displayed in A Century of the Artist’s Studio: 1920-2020, opening on 24 February 2022 Whitechapel Gallery. Accompanied by more than 80 artists in the exhibition, the work records a painting performance Emin gave in Galleri Andreas Brändström, Stockholm. Taking on the role of both artist and life model, who is often nude, the artist was viewed by visitors through small peepholes as she worked in a specially-constructed studio space in a candid and politically charged public performance.

By contrast, Emin’s ongoing series of neons – a critical part of her practice since the 1990s – adopt a language more commonly associated with commercial signage. Formed of her handwriting, the texts are poetic and intentionally ambiguous.


Emin has described her practice as ‘rites of passage, time and age, and the simple realisation that we are always alone. In recent years, painting and bronze sculpture have become her primary focus in works where the body comes to the fore as a battleground. On the canvas, she confronts moments of anguish, joy or pain: from memories of sexual aggression to the loss of her Mother and episodes of insomnia, illustrated through powerful graphic lines and dripping gestures. Her sculptures’ tactile, near-abstract female forms are similarly eroticised and defenceless, but always subjective, relating to the artist’s own body and physical self. The Mother (2022), a monumental 9-metre bronze sculpture and Emin’s most significant work to date, emphasised the female figure as vulnerable but also as protector and sexualised being – a heroic monument to femininity and motherhood. In June 2022, the sculpture will be permanently installed outside of the Munch Museum in Oslo, Norway.

Most recently, Emin revealed that she would establish an art school and museum in her seaside hometown of Margate, transforming a former Victorian bathhouse and mortuary into dozens of artists’ studios and a miniature Emin museum. In addition, the Tracey Emin Foundation will provide a sculpture park, artist residencies, lectures and, crucially, a life-drawing club for local children.

Iwona Blazwick said: “Our nominating committee was unanimous in wishing to pay tribute to Tracey Emin. Over the past four decades, her work across painting, sculpture, installation, film and photography has both challenged and transformed conceptions of art, gender, health and autonomy; now as one of the most renowned artists of our time, Emin’s impact can be seen globally – from contributing to the development of East London and Margate as centres for creativity, to her impact as a Professor at the Royal Academy and efforts further afield with the Tracey Emin Library in Uganda., Her pioneering portrayals of love, loss, happiness and hope will resonate with artists and audiences for years to come.”

The event committee includes Dorota Audemars, Erin Bell, Christian Levett, Florence Levett, Luigi Maramotti, Lorcan O’Neill, Irene Panaglopolous, Maria Sukkar and Cheyenne Westphal.

Tracey Emin (b. 1963, UK) will be the ninth artist to receive the prestigious annual Art Icon award.

On Another note:

Emin who moved back to Margate in 2017 has revealed that she is to open an art school in a former bathhouse, that she has bought. The school named as ‘TKE Studios’  is part of a bigger picture to turn Margate into a cultural centre. This will also include a residency program at a second location.

“People will have to apply, and there’ll be really strict rules,” said the artist on the school. “No sub-letting, no smoking, no loud music. And if people don’t want to do the rules then they won’t have a studio there.” Emin told the Times.

The site which locals call “the compound”, will be a “revolutionary space”, with the studios. “The artists will come from a mix of generations – “baby artists, middle artists, older artists – with the older artists helping the younger ones,” Emin expressed. “The other thing, because the rents are going to be so low, I’m not having people having part-time jobs and then never coming in. So, I’m setting it up so they will have time to work and paint.”

Photos: P C Robinson © Artlyst 2019

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