Tracey Emin Spills the Beans on Getting Older at Art Basel

Emin also likes to eavesdrop on fans of her work.

Tracey Emin
Photo: Ian Derry Via

When the YBA’s rose to fame in the ’90s in London there was rarely a week when they weren’t pictured living it up in Soho. It seems, however that Tracey Emin has confessed that she is growing more traditional in her “old age.”

“I’m buying full-piece swimsuits now,” she told AFP at Art Basel. “I bought myself a leaf collector the other day, so I’m slowly catching up with my age.”

When she first became famous, Emin was known for storming out during TV interviews, and for her work My Bed (1998), in which she displayed her unmade bed and stained underwear along with cigarettes and condoms. The work sold at auction last year for $3.8 million. Now Emin is one of the UK’s most famous living artists.

“Things have to change. I can’t carry on as I was when I was 28. It’s impossible,” she quipped.

Tracey Emin in front of Egon Schiele’s painting Seated Male Nude. Courtesy of Leopold Museum.

Tracey Emin in front of Egon Schiele’s painting Seated Male Nude
Photo: Courtesy of Leopold Museum.

In recent years Emin’s work has been exhibited alongside that of Louise Bourgeois, Francis Bacon, and is currently on view at the Leopold Museum in Vienna with poems and drawings by Egon Schiele. She is now planning an exhibition that will see her work shown with another one of her great influences, Edvard Munch, taking place in 2019.

Attending Art Basel where she will be honored on Saturday, and also showing work with Lehmann Maupin, the outspoken artist was typically blunt when talking about the fair.

“It’s a trade fair, isn’t it? People are shopping,” she said. “It’s heightened commerciality on an extreme level. You’ve got billionaires and millionaires and art lovers that are getting in from all over the world, and they have come here to buy art.”

She did however, have no time for the more mercenary shoppers.

Tracey Emin, Still Life, 2012, embroidered calico, 73 x 79 x 4 in., 185.4 x 200.7 x 10.2 cm. (framed), Lehmann Maupin, New York, NY

Tracey Emin, Still Life (2012)
Photo: Lehmann Maupin, New York

“I don’t like flippers,” she added. “I don’t like people who buy the work and then flip it. I’ve no respect for them whatsoever.”

It’s not only the flippers that should watch out for Emin at Basel, as the artist has revealed that she likes to eavesdrop on people looking at her work.

“It’s really brilliant at fairs because you can stand behind people and hear what they are saying,” she told AFP while gesturing at an unsuspecting couple. “I’m instantly recognizable, and it’s really great when they turn around and they see me.”

“If they say something nice, then it’s good, but if it’s negative, then it’s a lot of fun for me, I can assure you. I am very confident and strong about my work, so it doesn’t really get to me, but it’s good fun.”

We are advising lovers of Emin’s work to keep one eye over their shoulder at Art Basel this year.

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