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May 08 2013

Tracey Emin: I Followed You To The Sun / Lehmann Maupin Gallery, New York

Tracey Emin: I Followed You To The Sun is a solo show and two-part exhibition at Lehmann Maupin Gallery in New York that features over 100 works of art. The show includes series of new bronze sculptures, paintings, drawings, embroideries, and a short film.

A series of seven bronze sculptures is the centerpiece of Tracey Emin’s newest exhibition. The artist created the sculptures over the past year at the Long Island foundry used by Louise Bourgeois, with whom Emin had collaborated before her death in 2010. Each bronze is engraved with the artist’s poetic confessions. Like ancient sarcophagi, are adorned with tiny animal figurines and hand-sculpted human figures.

Tracey Emin: I Followed You To The Sun, Lehmann Maupin Gallery, New York. Opening reception, May 2, 2013. Video by Shimon Azulay.

PS: Watch our coverage of Tracey Emin’s big retrospective at Kunstmuseum Bern, Tracey Emin – 20 Years.

> Right-click (Mac: ctrl-click) this link to download Quicktime video file.
> On YouTube:

Press text:

Lehmann Maupin is honored to present Tracey Emin’s fifth solo show in New York from 2 May to 22 June 2013. Tracey Emin: I Followed You To The Sun is a two-part exhibition featuring over 100 works of art, including a series of new bronze sculptures, paintings and drawings, embroideries, and a short film. Lehmann Maupin has published a special artist monograph on the occasion of the exhibition. The gallery will host a book signing with the artist at 201 Chrystie Street on Wednesday, 1 May from 5 to 7 PM. The following evening, on Thursday, 2 May, Tracey Emin will be present for opening receptions at 540 West 26th Street and 201 Chrystie Street from 6 to 8 PM.

Regarded as one of the world’s most significant contemporary artists, Tracey Emin is internationally recognized for her blunt and revealing style, which elicits a broad range of emotions from shock to empathy to self-reflection. Drawing on personal experiences, Emin often reveals emotional situations with brutal honesty and poetic humor in a wide variety of media including painting, drawing, embroidery, neon, installation, sculpture, and film. This sprawling, two-part exhibition covers all aspects of Emin’s creative output and continues to reveal her most intimate internal narratives.

The centerpiece of Emin’s newest exhibition is a series of seven bronze sculptures that she created over the past year at the Long Island foundry used by Louise Bourgeois, with whom Emin had collaborated before her death in 2010. Each bronze is engraved with the artist’s poetic confessions, and like ancient sarcophagi, are adorned with tiny animal figurines and hand-sculpted human figures.

At 201 Chrystie Street the focus is on a very personal collection of gouache on paper drawings entitled Lonely Chair drawings, which are the primary subject of the accompanying exhibition catalogue. In this series of self-portraits, Emin depicts a solitary female figure in her signature gestural style. The images are drawn from photographs Emin took of herself in France and convey poignant emotions of longing and sadness.

The show will also feature a short film entitled “Love Never Wanted Me.” The film follows a wild fox on the grounds of a secluded estate as Emin narrates a haunting account of the pain associated with fleeting love, saying at one point, “The broken heart is a lonely world and this is the love that I know.”

In December 2013, the Museum of Contemporary Art, North Miami, will present the first solo museum exhibition devoted to Emin’s work in the United States. Curated by Bonnie Clearwater, the Museum’s Executive Director, Angel Without You will focus solely on Emin’s use of neon, a medium that she began utilizing in 1997. Since then, Emin’s illuminated confessions rendered in her personal handwriting have become widely regarded for their poignancy and the universality of her message. This past February, Emin debuted her first public project in New York’s Times Square, as part of Midnight Moment organized by s[edition], the Times Square Advertising Coalition, and Times Square Arts. Each night from 11:57 PM to Midnight, six of her most iconic neon messages were screened on the Times Square Jumbotrons in a silent and moving tribute to love.

Tracey Emin (b. 1963, London) was raised in the seaside town of Margate on the English coast. After leaving school at an early age, Emin enrolled at the Maidstone College of Art, Kent, to study printmaking. She continued her studies at the prestigious Royal College of Arts, London, where she earned a Master’s degree in painting. In 1999, Lehmann Maupin presented Tracey Emin’s first solo exhibition in the United States, Every Part of Me’s Bleeding. Following this critically acclaimed exhibition, Emin exhibited her infamous installation “My Bed” at the Tate Gallery, for which she was shortlisted for the Turner Prize. In 2007, she was chosen to represent Great Britain at the Venice Biennale, becoming the second female artist to ever do so. That same year, Emin was made a Royal Academician and was awarded an Honorary Doctorate from the Royal College of Art, a Doctor of Letters from the University of Kent and a Doctor of Philosophy from London Metropolitan University. In January 2013, Queen Elizabeth II appointed Emin a Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire for her contributions to the visual arts.

In recent years, Emin has been the subject of a number of retrospective museum exhibitions around the world, including a major solo show at the Museo de Arte Latinoamericano de Buenos Aires, Argentina, which encompassed a collection of her early films (2012); She Lay Down Deep Beneath the Sea, a solo exhibition at Turner Contemporary in her hometown of Margate (2012); and Tracey Emin: 20 Years, the artist’s first retrospective which originated at Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art, Edinburgh (2008), before traveling to the Centro de Arte Contemporáneo, Málaga (2008) and the Kunstmuseum Bern, Switzerland (2009).

Emin’s work can be found in many of the world’s most prestigious public collections, including the Albright-Knox Gallery, Buffalo; Brooklyn Museum of Art, New York; British Museum, London; Camden Arts Center, London; Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris; Denver Art Museum; Garage Center for Contemporary Culture, Moscow; Hara Museum, Tokyo; Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles; Museum of Modern Art, New York; National Portrait Gallery, London; Neue Nationalgalerie, Berlin; Saatchi Collection, London; San Francisco Museum of Art; Tate Gallery, London; and Walker Art Centre, Minneapolis.

The artist lives and works in London, England.



August 15 2012

Peter Duggan's Artoons: Tracey Emin

Cartoonist Peter Duggan redraws art history with a light-hearted look at how Tracey Emin might have created her famous tent artwork, Everyone I Have Ever Slept With, 1963-1995

June 29 2012

Impressionism, Degas and Shepard Fairey – the week in art

The French avant garde storm London's Royal Academy, plus shows from Peter Blake and Mark Wallinger, Olympic posters and Britain's biggest mural – all in your weekly art dispatch

Exhibition of the week: From Paris: A Taste for Impressionism – Paintings from the Clark

The art of the French avant garde in the 19th century always has the power to startle because it is always underestimated. Newspapers tend to see it as safe; art historians analyse its bourgeois ideology. But the public knows better. The reason Monet, Renoir, Manet and their contemporaries remain so popular is not because people want "safe" art. It is because we can recognise true inspiration when we see it. The impressionists captured the feel of modern life in a way that was unprecedented. There's a lightness and reality to their paintings that is the taste of the world we inhabit. In these paintings, as their contemporary Karl Marx said of modernity, all that is solid melts into air.
Royal Academy, London W1, from 7 July until 23 September

Other exhibitions this week

Richard Wilson
The artist who filled Saatchi's tank with oil offers a sculptural take on a British pop icon, as he recreates the tottering bus from the final moments of the film The Italian Job.
De La Warr Pavilion, Bexhill-on-Sea, from 7 July until 1 October

Peter Blake
A hero of pop art revisits the music that has inspired him.
Pallant House Gallery, Chichester, until 7 October

Mark Wallinger
This quirky conceptualist always goes his own way – and it's worth following along.
Baltic, Gateshead, until 14 October

Olympic Posters
Chris Ofili's is the best and Tracey Emin's is the silliest, but whose will capture imaginations this summer?
Tate Britain, London SW1, until 23 September

Masterpiece of the week

Hilaire-Germain-Edgar Degas, Young Spartans Exercising

The strange erotic intensity of this history painting by Degas is a clue to the passions that pulse within his later impressionist and post-impressionist works. Near-naked young men and women face each other in tense competition, a fantasy of some athletic sex war. Degas shows a similarly charged sexual obsessiveness in later paintings in the same gallery: through his eyes, even hair-brushing becomes a sadomasochist ritual, and as for an acrobat suspending herself by her teeth ...
National Gallery, London WC2

Image of the week

What we learned this week

That it's possible to redo Van Gogh in dominoes

What a jumbo jet nose, a ginormous megaphone and a bus spray-painted with bubbles have in common

That a contemporary collection of Middle Eastern photography has been acquired for the UK – and about time, too

How beautiful the new Turner, Monet and Twombly show is

What the wild men of Germany, Romania and Croatia look like

And finally

Have you uploaded anything to the Guardian Art and design Flickr page yet?

Or shared any of your art with us?

Have you seen our Tumblr?

Do you follow us on Twitter?

Or on Facebook?

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June 12 2012

Fantasy art school: artists reveal their dream teachers

As London's Hayward Gallery launches its month-long alternative art college, Wide Open School, Tracey Emin, Antony Gormley and others tell us who their dream teachers would be. Who would you like to be taught by?

This month, more than 100 artists from 40 countries are heading to London's Southbank to host workshops as part of the Hayward's alternative college of art, Wide Open School. Subjects in the timetable range from dining and singing sessions and sushi-making performance art classes to the Sundown Schoolhouse of Queer Home Economics, plus explorations of time and space, forensics and Freddie Mercury.

As the college swings open its doors, we ask a selection of artists who their dream teachers would be.

Tracey Emin

I would like to have been taught by Simone Weil, Daphne du Maurier and Louise Bourgeois. I think it would have made a wonderful trio of art, literature and philosophy – at school, that is all I needed to be taught.

Tracey Emin will be in conversation with Jeanette Winterson on 26 June.

Michael Landy

I was never taught cricket at school and I've never played it, but I do listen to it on the radio. So I would nominate Geoffrey Boycott, ex-Yorkshire and England cricketer, to teach me the basics about batting and bowling. He would tell me to keep my eye on the ball, and to move either forwards or backwards depending on where the ball pitched, and to keep my head still. We would discuss the finer points of the "corridor of uncertainty" and when I played a bad shot, he would tell me that his mum could have done better than me.

Michael Landy is running a workshop on destruction

Bob and Roberta Smith

I wish I'd been taught by Theodor W Adorno and Walter Benjamin, and at primary school by Michael Rosen, who could have warned me about the dangers of too much entertainment on the 1970s TV programme Play Away.

Bob and Roberta Smith is creating a symphony for the public realm.

Marlene Dumas

Joseph Beuys, because of his postcards with Klaus Staeck and his smile!

An evening with Marlene Dumas takes place on 5 July.

Antony Gormley

David Bohm, the inspirational physicist who developed the implications of Einstein's 1915 general theory of relativity. He could have involved me in the participatory activity of holomovement in his understanding of the implicate order of phenomena.

Antony Gormley will be talking to critic and writer Michael Newman about time in art.

Jane and Louise Wilson

We have a great admiration for the teaching profession: it would be difficult to find any other profession with as many valuable, dedicated and creative thinkers who, despite the lack of government support, continue to brilliantly inspire future generations. We attended the same comprehensive school in the 1980s and although they no longer exist any more, reflecting back to that time we would find it really hard to agree upon only one artist we would have both liked to have been taught by. Essentially, there are too many. It would have been fascinating to attend a talk by Professor Mary E King about her book The Power of Nonviolent Action (1988). The book is timely on so many levels despite being written before the collapse of the former Soviet Union. It describes the successful use of non-violent strategies to bring about political change, from the pro-democracy movements in the former Soviet Union to the present-day pro-democracy movements in the Middle East.

Jane and Louise Wilson will be in conversation with Caroline Wilkinson on 13 June.

Thomas Hirschhorn

Joseph Beuys, because he accepted everybody in his class – and would accept me. And because he asserted that every human being is an artist, because he included everyone in his work, because he never "made school" in the sense of creating followers, because his teaching was part of his artistic mission, because of his decisions about his materials, because of his work in public space, because he understood art as something which needs to confront social, economical and political issues. And because he makes me love art.

Thomas Hirschhorn is running a class called Energy: Yes! Quality: No! on 3 July.

Mark Wallinger

Great teachers are those that have such a revelatory impact on their students that it might shape their future destiny. Keats's sonnet, On first looking into Chapman's Homer, expresses his passion for poetry by using imagery of exploration and discovery, which never fails to thrill me. And how exciting would it have been to witness Filippo Brunelleschi demonstrating linear perspective for the first time in his baptistry in Florence. But above all, I wish I could resurrect my junior school teacher Mr Holland, even if he might recognise his idea for parent's open day in my upcoming show at Baltic in Gateshead

Martin Creed

I don't believe in teaching. I think people learn things. Nobody teaches them.

Who is your dream teacher?

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May 29 2012

Tracey Emin could have exploded a lot of menopause myths – but she blew it | Joanna Moorehead

For many women the menopause is a time of rebirth and opportunity, not the 'beginning of dying' that Emin describes

People don't talk about the menopause, Tracey Emin told the Guardian. Well, she's right – people don't. So Emin does. "It is a nightmare, an absolute nightmare," she says. "It's horrible… [it] makes you feel slightly dead… it is the beginning of dying."

Oh dear! Women of our age – and I'm almost the same vintage as Emin – want to be more visible, acknowledged and celebrated. We don't want to slip quietly from the stage, as we all too often seem to be expected to do – and here's Emin, with a big new show opening in Margate, where she was raised. She's a perfect ambassador for us.

And what does she do? Well, she blows it: she gets a chance to be positive, ballsy and feisty about a tricky subject (and goodness knows, she's been positive, ballsy and feisty about plenty of other tricky subjects in her time) and she shreds it. Totally. Because who is going to believe that mid-life womanhood has got anything to it if Emin, one of the small number of late-fortysomething women in the public eye, reports from the front line that it's a nightmare?

The reality, for many of us, is that the menopause is not nightmarish, or horrible, and nor does it feel like the anteroom to death. In fact it feels more like a new beginning – a time of fresh opportunities and unexplored directions. For some of us (not Emin, it's true, since she's not had children) it's a time of expanding space, as our offspring grow up and manage to do more for themselves. For others, it's a time to reassess relationships and – sometimes – to find them wanting, sometimes enough to move on from them. And while it absolutely doesn't feel to me like the last stop before the graveyard, there's certainly a sense that there are some opportunities in life that, if not taken now, will quite probably never happen again.

One of the conundrums of the debate on ageing seems to me to be that while it happens to all of us, the negativity that's always surrounded the menopause seems to hint at scarier, deeper darknesses around women's ageing than men's.

What Emin could have done (should have done, in my view) was properly explore her feelings about the menopause in her new show. She could have looked – and oh my goodness, what a service it would have been for all of us forty- and fiftysomething women – at the state of mid-life womanhood in the same way that the wonderful Louise Bourgeois explored, in her 80s and 90s, the state of later-life womanhood. Bourgeois didn't moan or whinge about being older; and where it slowed her down, she folded that slowing down into her art.

Emin could have done all this, shining new light on a subject that men have long ridiculed, and women have been too polite or frightened to explore. I somehow can't help suspecting, too, that if Emin had chosen to take the bull by the horns, the reviewers – the Guardian's Jonathan Jones among them – might have found rather more to praise in the show itself.

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May 28 2012

Letters: Of skulls, nudes and sketchy art critiques

Hang on a minute – Jonathan Jones wrote in his blog (15 December 2011) on the appointment of Tracey Emin as professor of drawing at the Royal Academy: "Emin is an outstanding draughtswoman." Jonathan Jones reviewing Emin's Margate exhibition (Artist Emin leaves the wild child behind, 26 May): "The suspicion that she is not after all a genius at drawing increases as she shifts from one medium to another … As for drawing, Emin is good at it only by the standards of a generation that preferred concepts to achievement." And in the same week, "as a longtime admirer", that he trashed Damien Hirst's new paintings at White Cube (Review, 23 May). Hmmm … not sure what I should be thinking now. Perhaps I should just ignore the professional critic and rely on my own instincts of recognising overpublicised mediocrity when I see it?
John Keane

• Damien Hirst should perhaps stop painting, at least in public but not necessarily for the reasons expounded by your art critic. Damien Hirst is compromising his creativity by allowing himself to be bullied by the snobbery and elitism so prevalent in the art establishment, that only painters are artists. So much bad art is produced by those skilled with brush, pencil and crayon, and artists should not be bound by the forms of past times. Mr Hirst must believe in the integrity of his expression, and the means by which he can communicate it most effectively, and not waste time and effort trying to please the intellectuals. They always get it wrong.
Chris Trude
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May 26 2012

Tracey Emin's hope for Margate resurrection as seaside town wins grant aid

Tracey Emin's show at the new Turner Contemporary gallery is the latest boost for ailing resort

Any seaside town worth its salt can be found in high spirits when the weather is hot, but Margate has more than one reason to rejoice this weekend.

The ailing resort's most famous daughter, artist Tracey Emin – freshly anointed as the local Olympic torch-bearer – has returned to open her first show at the pristine Turner Contemporary gallery on the seafront.

And, what is more, news has just broken that Margate will receive an extra government grant of £100,000 as one of retail guru Mary Portas's 12 pilot towns targeted for regeneration.

"It is brilliant," said Emin on hearing of the grant as she cut the ribbon on a new sweet shop in the hip Old Town quarter. "At first I thought we hadn't got the money when I heard Wolverhampton had won, but I am delighted. I want it to put Margate back on the map. It is badly needed because the town is in a tragic state."

If Brighton was once memorably described as a place "permanently helping the police with their inquiries", then much of Margate still looks as if it is on weekend release from a custodial sentence. Up the hill from the Old Town and the sparkling art gallery, the Cliftonville district remains crumbling and impoverished. Boarded up guesthouses and dingy hostels dominate.

"Anything that the middle of Margate needs, then Cliftonville needs it 10 times as much," admitted Emin.

But help may be at hand for Cliftonville, too, as the desolate Dalby Square has been earmarked for a £2m lottery-funded renovation.

"The benefits of the new gallery more or less stop any farther up the road from here," said Penny Ragozzino of the trendy Fort Café on the way to Cliftonville. "But we opened up here in October because of the gallery and our trade has been steadily growing. Lots of people from London are buying up cheap houses in Cliftonville now. It is phenomenal the number of new businesses that have started. There is a fantastic spirit here now."

Tawdry seaside towns in economic need are not rare in Britain, but what is rare is the positive impact of Turner Contemporary. In its first year it exceeded all hopes for visitor numbers, attracting half a million.

Speaking to Margate people and celebrity guests including Jerry Hall when her show opened on Friday night, Emin praised the local authority for giving the gallery free admission. "It has such a great knock-on effect," she said.

To win over those the artist described as "cynics" she wrote to each surrounding household, inviting them to see her show. The ploy has worked, with attitudes to Emin and the show generally much warmer than those of sceptical art critics.

"Tracey has made a difference and is popular here in Margate," said Margate-man Will Allsop. "It is a good beginning."

The gallery, too, has provided a focus for artistic regeneration and, as Emin pointed out, it has a secondary status as a shelter from the wind. "It is a free warm on a cold day," agreed Sarah Vickery of the town's Shell Grotto. "And it is clearly a good thing, but given that they spent £25m on it you would hope it did have some impact."

Vickery, who is campaigning for the redevelopment of the Dreamland amusement park, has watched several attempts at regeneration. While artists initially failed to move into expensive units in the Old Town, they are now colonising the cheaper area behind it. "You can't hothouse these things and just ship artists in, but the gallery has been a shot in the arm — although much of the effect so far is corralled around the gallery."

Vickery's partner, Colin Barber, who runs a vintage clothing store, highlights the lack of jobs for the high numbers of homeless Londoners and immigrants who are rehoused in Cliftonville.

Vickery agrees: "People always say Margate is so different to Ramsgate and Broadstairs. It is so edgy. But what they mean is it is rough."

Certainly it is a town that shouts out. Along the seafront, garish signs proclaim "Margate: the original seaside", "Café C Loves Tracey" or "There is no Such thing as the Dog Poo Fairy", while outside Primark a bare-chested youth with a beer in his hand calls out for passersby to admire his body. None of it is very far from the raw sentiments expressed by Emin inside the nearby gallery in her neon lights and blue paint.

Margate, loved by Turner as the home of great sunsets and of his mistress Mrs Booth, has its own kind of avant garde vibe. It is the sort of place you can overhear a discussion about whether or not dying your hair pink is a good idea when you are sunburnt, accompanied by a salty chuckle to rival Emin's own. So it seems natural that she should be chosen to carry the Olympic torch this summer. Whether she can also single-handedly deliver the future Margate is calling out for seems unlikely.

Her arrival on Friday was heralded by the descent of hundreds of international media and tourists to boost local retail sales, but she knows it is not enough and regularly calls for the reopening of Margate's caves, and the speedy redevelopment of the defunct amusement park.

Aptly, Turner Contemporary stands next to the town's lifeboat station, dwarfing its proportions, but it cannot rescue the town on its own, despite the high cost of its construction.

Time will tell if this marks the beginning of a boom for the seaside resort or just another of many ill-fated waves of optimism. As Emin told her guests on Friday night: "The last decades have not been at all kind to Margate, so it surely cannot get any worse." © 2012 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved. | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds

May 25 2012

Tracey Emin returns to Margate – and leaves the wild child behind

Exhibition at Turner Contemporary in Margate finds the artist experiencing the 'hell of menopause' in pursuit of true love

Tracey Emin opens a show of new work in her home town of Margate a changed woman: the slightly sex-obsessed wild child has gone, replaced by someone who is going through the "hell of the menopause," looking for new experiences and seeking, perhaps for the first time, true love.

In an interview with the Guardian Emin talks frankly about her life at the moment. "I am going through the menopause and I have been for ages," she says. "It is a nightmare, an absolute nightmare. It's horrible. And I don't look like that kind of person, you don't put menopause on top of my head, it doesn't associate with me.

"People don't talk about it, but the menopause, for me, makes you feel slightly dead, so you have to start using the other things – using your mind more, read more, you have to be more enlightened, you have to take on new things, think of new ideas, discover new things, start looking at the stars, understand astronomy … just wake yourself up, otherwise it's a gentle decline. For women, it is the beginning of dying. It is a sign. I've got to start using my brain more – I've got to be more ethereal and more enlightened."

In a wide-ranging interview Emin talked about her art, love, motherhood and politics before her homecoming at Turner Contemporary, a show she considers one of the most important of her career because it will help get people to Margate. She has written a letter to all the town's residents asking them to come and see it.

The show is part of the London 2012 Festival, the culmination of the Cultural Olympiad, and almost all of the work is new or has never been exhibited.

"I do feel really positive about this show, because even if people don't like it, I like it," says Emin.

"And that is the most important thing. I didn't know that I would, because there's so much new work, and I thought I was setting myself up for a fall, but I've done it. I wanted to do something exceptional because it is Margate.

"I'm always anxious with a show, but more so with this one. I've been tearing myself to pieces … chronic nerves." © 2012 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved. | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds

The Saturday interview: Tracey Emin

Tracey Emin, who opens one of the biggest shows of her career today, talks about swapping sex for stargazing, why she likes David Cameron, and wanting her art to make people feel better

Demanding artist, selfish (her words) seeks an intelligent man with good sense of humour, probably not for sex because she's going through the menopause and has lost the urge, but definitely for laughs and companionship.

"I want love," says Tracey Emin. "I want to spend my life with someone and do nice things and go on adventures, read books and have nice food and celebrate things. I don't want to spend the rest of my life in the bedroom like some people who just go to bed and never get out again."

Emin is approaching 50 and she is worried about the possibility of a lonely, gentle descent to death. "I am going through the menopause and I have been for ages," she says. "It is a nightmare, an absolute nightmare. It's horrible. And I don't look like that kind of person; you don't put menopause on top of my head, it doesn't associate with me."

Emin is talking as she finishes the installation of a show that she regards as one of the most important of her career, because it is in her home town of Margate.

The works going on public display from today are almost all new or never previously exhibited. They explore themes of love and eroticism, but overwhelmingly, they mark a farewell to the old Emin – the wild child, the one that got drunk all the time, the sex, the bed, the tent. Her "animal" lust has gone. Now there is the new Emin.

"People don't talk about it, but the menopause, for me, makes you feel slightly dead, so you have to start using the other things – using your mind more, read more, you have to be more enlightened, you have to take on new things, think of new ideas, discover new things, start looking at the stars, understand astronomy … just wake yourself up, otherwise it's a gentle decline.

"For women, it is the beginning of dying. It is a sign. I've got to start using my brain more – I've got to be more ethereal and more enlightened."

Emin is 48. In 2008 she told Piers Morgan she wanted to adopt children – an idea she scoffs at now. "I have friends who have adopted, and they had to radically change their life, their homes, the way they dressed – everything, to get through the adoption agencies. I am not going to change anything."

She's not even sure she'd make a good mother. "I'd make a good friend, not mother. I'm too selfish. I think a lot of mothers are selfish and they end up having children, but I don't want to put some small tiny person through that. I don't want to be Joan Crawford.

"I would really like the idea of someone small and cute to dress up, we all do, but that's not what it's about, is it? I don't want a mini-me."

The truth is she has now made a conscious decision not to have children, and finds herself something of a role model for other similarly minded women. "I'm never going to have children, I'm never going to be a grandmother, I'm probably never going to get married. I'm nearly 50, and it is not happening. I've got too much on the other side now, and I understand that."

But being childless can be difficult. "You're treated like a witch. And I'm not a witch, it is just that I have chosen to do things in another way. It is not by accident."

There are some stunningly beautiful works in her latest show, and much to get hearts singing, especially in the first room, which features a series of blue drawings bathed in exceptional light. "This room is about not being alone, and there's a nice feeling in this room. It's uplifting."

We look at some drawings of her in bed with a friend reading Daphne du Maurier short stories to her. "It was such a nice, cosy thing. No sex, just a really good story." Emin suddenly seems downbeat. "I've thought I experienced love, and now I'm nearly 50 I'm saying, have I? Maybe I haven't. Maybe I don't know what love is. Maybe what I thought was love was a kind of greed, or desire, or something? I think there's different kinds of love – that's where I'm at at the moment. But I don't think I've experienced love."

Emin came closest in her five-year relationship with fellow YBA (the so-called Young British Artists who emerged in the late 1980s) Mat Collishaw, which ended 10 years ago (they are still good friends). In 2010 she split up with boyfriend Scott Douglas, and her closest relationship now, she says, is with her cat, Docket.

"When you have a really good friend and they're reading you a book in bed and it's all cosy and all snuggly, that can be love, too. It doesn't have to be hardcore. There's different kinds of love, and I'd never experienced that kind of totally platonic love. All the love I've experienced has always been a kind of deal, and now, as I get older, I realise that there's this other love out there."

At the other side of the room we look at some works she has never shown before, from when she was in Australia in 2007. "I was in Sydney on my own for two months, trying to work out why I felt so ill. I went on this complete health thing – I stopped drinking, I cycled every day, I walked about 10km every day, I swam every day, went on a really strict diet. My legs and arms went completely skinny, but my stomach was just getting bigger and bigger, because I was ill, and didn't understand why. What I was trying to do with these drawings was try and make myself feel sexy again, but it was difficult. It was almost there, but wasn't."

What was her illness? "I had a tapeworm."

We move on to works she did in Carrara, Tuscany, when she was looking at marble with a friend. "It was the first time I'd been really happy in a long time. You know when you wake up and you feel good? I realised then I'd been low for a long time."

One is a simple drawing of a heart, which Emin now wants to make in pink alabaster. "I'm sure the first alabaster heart will be a disaster, I'd have to keep working at it, but it's about me being driven by myself," she says. "Whether people like my work or not, I want to show people I can do things. I look at this show and I'm enthusiastic. It makes me want to do things."

Emin's path to art superstardom began when she opened The Shop in Bethnal Green with YBA Sarah Lucas in 1993, cashing in on Damien Hirst's new fame by selling ashtrays with his face on. People began to sit up and take notice with works such as her tent (Everyone I Ever Slept With, from 1963 to 1995) that was bought by Charles Saatchi and shown at the Royal Academy's Sensation show in 1997 – the same year that she so memorably appeared on a late-night Channel 4 discussion show completely hammered. Two years later, Emin was shortlisted for the Turner prize, exhibiting her unmade bed complete with stains, condoms and dirty underwear.

Unlike some other YBAs, her success has endured. She represented Britain at the Venice Biennale in 2007, staged an enormously successful mid-career retrospective at London's Hayward gallery last year, and not long after that was voted by her peers as Eranda professor of drawing at the Royal Academy, the first woman to occupy the role.

Critics generally warm to her these days. Reviewing the Hayward show, Rachel Campbell-Johnston of the Times wrote: "I would love to hate Tracey Emin," but she left "a convert". The Guardian's Adrian Searle called her art touching and surprising and said "the cumulative effect is extremely powerful".

She may shake her head at the suggestion, but Emin, once "Mad Trace from Margate", is now firmly part of the establishment. She's even a Tory. "I like David Cameron because I think he is fair compared to a lot of politicians in history," she says. "He's in the centre. Probably more centre than someone in Labour, not mentioning any names, who's actually Opus Dei – that is extreme right-wing thinking."

She is baffled by all the political fighting that goes on. One work in the show, The Vanishing Lake, is a rusting metal bath with a scrunched-up union flag in it, and is a comment on Britain – "politically, socially, morally". The flag is a scar. "I don't understand why people don't pull together. I don't understand why there's so much disunity. I don't understand why people can't just say: 'It's a mess, let's pull together.' Why is everyone so angry with each other on everything? It's so easy – if everyone relaxed and said we should work together, rather than against each other."

The Margate show is at Turner Contemporary, the David Chipperfield-designed gallery that opened in April last year and is helping to spearhead the town's desperately needed regeneration. Emin has been a staunch supporter, and she was the obvious choice for a major show in Olympic year (the exhibition is part of the London 2012 festival). It is clearly a big deal for her, and she's written an open letter to Margate, asking people to come. "I do feel really positive about this show, because even if people don't like it, I like it. And that is the most important thing. I didn't know that I would, because there's so much new work, and I thought I was setting myself up for a fall, but I've done it. I wanted to do something exceptional because it is Margate.

"I'm always anxious with a show, but more so with this one. I've been tearing myself to pieces … chronic nerves."

Reassuringly, there is a bed in the show. Or a Heal's mattress at least – quite astonishingly stained – on which Emin has placed a bronzed dead branch. The mattress saw service between 2000 and 2003, and is called Dead Sea. But how did it get into such a state? "I'm not going to go into the gory details. Believe me, it was all naturally made. It wasn't all on my own, I can assure you.

"It goes back to that thing of being over." She's talking about sex again. "It's over. This explains it very well. It was there, but it's gone."

And though she's one of the most successful and feted artists of her generation, is rich and has beautiful houses in east London and the south of France, where she spends around four months a year, it's still not easy finding a man. "I don't think it helps," Emin says. "Any woman who is successful and top of their game will tell you that it is not attractive to men."

She says she has not had many close relationships in recent years, and her friends "have seriously stopped" any attempts at matchmaking. "I say to them, 'Would you give him a blow job? No you wouldn't, so don't expect me to.'"

A flash of the old Emin – full-on, confrontational, up yours. Now she simply wants people to come to her show and enjoy it. "A lot of my shows generally make people feel worse," she says. "I'd like it if people came and left feeling better."

She Lay Down Deep Beneath the Sea: Tracey Emin at Turner Contemporary opens today, until 23 September. Details: © 2012 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved. | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds

This week's new exhibitions

Tracey Emin, Margate

Tracey Emin's first big show in her old home Margate must surely feel like a milestone for Britart's original bad girl. The story of underage sex and one fateful seaside dance competition, which is recounted in her brilliant Why I Never Became A Dancer, set the tone for a bittersweet relationship with the troubled seaside town which has been played out in various works over the years since. Where that early video ended in a celebratory "fuck you" to her past, what she offers here suggests that Emin has definitely moved on. The exhibition is dominated by Emin's scratchy, scribbly nudes, dashed off in pencil and blue watercolour, or stitched in fine, spidery thread and accompanied here and there by textual outbursts: "I didn't say I couldn't love you" reads one. These are paired with a choice selection of drawings by Rodin, whose intimate studies of the female form make an intriguing and stunning counterpoint to Emin's assertive vision of her own sexuality.

Turner Contemporary, Sat to 23 Sep


ON: A Re-imagining Of Blackpool Illuminations, Blackpool

Anyone who considers that multimedia, site-specific installations are something culturally new should catch the Blackpool illuminations, which will be 100 years old this autumn. For many impressionable juvenile souls like myself, the lights were our first experience of art as pure amazement. They can also be seen as postmodern: a bizarre assemblage of historical samplings from cartoon teddies to giant Tiffany lamps, from ancient Greece to B-movie sci-fi. Here, artist Brian Griffiths celebrates the centenary by creating his own version of the annual spectacle inside the Grundy.

Grundy Art Gallery, to 28 Jul

Robert Clark

Henry Moore, London

The most frequent complaint levelled at Henry Moore's sculpture is how ubiquitous it is. Up to his death in 1986, his huge public commissions erupted across the world from London to Dallas, Berlin to Hong Kong. In parks, plazas, outside or atop buildings, they seem as easy to miss as streetlights. This show redresses the balance, with late works of the 1960s and 1970s brought indoors and centre stage. Working in bronze meant Moore could go big, and these smooth, prehistoric-looking sculptures, largely culled from the grounds of Much Hadham's Henry Moore Foundation, are the size of Fred Flintstone's house. They come in rippling shapes like the sea-washed bones of some primeval giant or, as with his Large Spindle Piece, horned like a rhino.

Gagosian Britannia Street, WC1, Thu to 18 Aug


Simon Fujiwara, Cork

The British-Japanese artist Simon Fujiwara's Museum Of Incest is a bizarre amalgam of historical fact and dreamed-up fictions. Staged as a series of museum exhibits, complete with glass vitrine cases and carefully labelled specimens, the work appears to be an "authoritative" history of the human race that claims with deadpan conviction that without incest there would be no humankind. There are archaeological curios and autobiographical souvenirs, accounts of a visit to the "Cradle of Mankind" burial site of the earliest human ancestors in the Olduvai Gorge, Tanzania and assorted newspaper cuttings: "Oldest Footprint Found"; "Man's Dread Of Incest A Deeply Rooted Feeling". The whole thing would be plain daft, of course, if it were not for Fujiwara's attention to detail, his precise balancing of truth and lies, and his ongoing ability to suspend disbelief through pure, persuasive cheek.

Crawford Art Gallery, to 27 Jun


Heatherwick Studio, London

Thomas Heatherwick is no longer the bright upstart of British design. He's one of its major talents, as this survey of his tirelessly inventive career is set to affirm. Londoners will know him through projects like his Rolling Bridge, a hexagonal box that unfurls to cross the Grand Union canal at Paddington Basin; and most recently his revamped hop-on-hop-off Routemaster buses. Heatherwick, though, has a feel for the playful as much as the practical. His designs include a spinning chair that dips backwards like a funfair ride, and his award-winning British pavilion for the 2010 Shanghai Expo, which wore a shaggy coat of light-reflecting rods so it seemed one part sea anemone, one part fibre optic lamp. As with many designers-cum-architects, some of Heatherwick's most interesting projects are yet to be made, like his Teesside biomass-fuelled power station: a silvery, space-age volcano on a tiny island.

V&A, SW7, Thu to 30 Sep


Zed Nelson, Henry Tonks, Durham

A thought-provoking pairing of Zed Nelson's photography of the worldwide beauty and cosmetics industry with medical drawings by the Slade School lecturer, painter and first world war medical corps volunteer Henry Tonks. Tonks's cataloguing of the facial injuries suffered by soldiers presage Francis Bacon's paintings by some 50 years. Set against such disturbances, Nelson's beauty queens and bodybuilders – sourced from 18 countries across five continents – come across as all the more interestingly perverse.

DLI Museum & Durham Art Gallery, to 24 Jun


Doris Salcedo, London

Silence roars in Doris Salcedo's art, be it the untold inequality of the voiceless oppressed or the quiet of unmarked graves. As with the great, zigzagging crack in the floor of Tate Modern's Turbine Hall five years ago, she addresses the hush that descends after the violent act. Plegaria Muda, a major installation featuring pairs of reconfigured coffin-sized tables that was begun in 2004 and is shown in an amended form here, is a response to her research into life in Los Angeles ghettos as well as into the deaths of over 1,500 Colombian men, cajoled into joining the army and then murdered as reported guerrillas. The funereal furniture is paired with a new installation, A Flor de Piel, a shroud of thousands of rose petals.

White Cube Mason's Yard, SW1 to 30 Jun


Laura Belém, York

Laura Belém's The Temple Of A Thousand Bells finds its perfect home in the medieval ambience of York St Mary's. Belém has stated she wants to touch the viewer's "inner score" with the work and it does strike one with a hush of silent enchantment. A thousand cast glass clapper-less bells hang by nylon threads from the church's ceiling in a kind of ghostly carillon. The muted underwater atmosphere of the piece is derived from a legend about a sailor trying to listen in to an island temple that had sunk below the ocean. Belém's installations depend on the precise placement of elements within sites that set the scene for a freeform lyrical reverie.

York St Mary's, to 4 Nov

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Exhibitionist: The week's art shows in pictures

From a satirical Museum of Incest in Cork to Tracey Emin's mega Margate homecoming, find out what's happening in art around the country

May 18 2012

Damien Hirst, Richard Serra and Tracey Emin – the week in art

Damien Hirst's 'proper' paintings go on display, as Tracey Emin re-imagines the London underground map – all in your favourite weekly art dispatch

Exhibition of the week: Damien Hirst

Go on, admit it – you're dying to see this newly revealed batch of Damien Hirst's paintings, the "proper" ones he actually paints himself in his garden shed, with hilarious consequences. The press release confidently places these paintings of his familiar objects in the history of the still life and the painting of the seasons (they were done on summer days). Then you look at the half-baked daub of a bird, a foetus in a jar (or what looks like it) and other stuff on the invitation card and think ... No.

And yet I genuinely want to see these paintings. For one thing, it will complete Hirst's trilogy of exhibitions that add up to a complete artistic autobiogaphy in London this spring. The spot paintings at Gagosian were depressing – the comparison that damns them is with Mondrian. Abstract art is, potentially, just pattern. What makes it more than that? Inner fire, higher purpose. Mondrian possessed that. Hirst's paintings are devoid of it. The difference is invisible yet absolute.

Then came his impressive retrospective at Tate Modern, astutely gathering all that deserves to be remembered of his work. It eloquently disproves those who dismiss Hirst. He is revealed here as an artist driven by a genuine desire to ask the biggest questions about life and death. His early vitrines are genuinely striking and ambitiously metaphysical. Yet they are never quite as metaphysical as they want to be.

I want to thank Mr Hirst for resolving the mixed feelings, from real love to real loathing, that I have experienced in front of his works since the early 1990s. When people disparage him as some kind of worthless fake I am furious at their blindness to his virtues. The Tate show demonstrates he is a real artist, with a vision of modern life. But it does not show him to be a great artist. He's interesting, diverting, but only, in the end, quite good.

Maybe it is because he so longs to be great that Hirst is driven to give up his quite good things and become very bad. His unplugged from-life paintings are genuinely terrible. Ironic defences of them fail because he is too bigheaded to present them as the jokes they actually are. But if you want to be great and you are stuck with quite good, could awfulness lead you to the secret places of genius?

White Cube, Bermondsey, from 23 May until 8 July

Other exhibitions this week

Works by Man Ray, Fiona Banner and many more.
The Drawing Room, until 30 June

House 2012
Art festival in Brighton and Hove including artists' open houses and David Batchelor's provocative Skip.
• Various venues until 27 May

Rene Burri
Terrific photojournalist who shows truth can have a style.
Atlas, London until 9 June

The English Prize: The Capture of the Westmorland
Historians have long used the device of "microhistory" to tell big stories through small episodes. This mainstay of modern non-fiction writing has been crying out to be taken up by curators, and this exhibition is essentially a paperback history book re-imagined for the gallery, transporting visitors to the 18th-century age of the Grand Tour through the dramatic story of the "English prize", a ship full of art bought in Italy by English aristocrats that was seized by two French ships in 1779.
Ashmolean Museum, Oxford, until 27 August

Masterpiece of the Week

Richard Serra, Trip Hammer

This is what great modern art looks like. "Looks like" may be the wrong words, as you feel the weight of Serra's precariously balanced mass of steel, sense the danger of it. Serra always makes you aware of the gravity of the situation.

Tate Modern

Image of the week: Tracey Emin's tube map

What we learned this week

Who the new Da Vinci of design is

How the newly reopened Photographers' Gallery is promising exciting times ahead

That Jeremy Deller has been chosen to represent Britain at the 2013 Venice Biennale

Why the Quay brothers want people to get lost in their labyrinth of Leeds for this whole weekend

How a Banksy rat disappeared down a drain – and what it means for the builders who ruined it!


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April 01 2012

The artisans behind the artists

What's it like to make giant monuments for Rachel Whiteread? Or to paint spots for Damien Hirst? The people behind some of Britain's best known art share their highs – and lows

Rachel Swainston

Made spot paintings for Damien Hirst in the mid-1990s, before becoming an upholsterer.

Painting spots was very dull. There's not a lot you can say about them. The canvases would arrive; they'd be stretched and pinned. Damien would specify spot size and we would mark them up and draw them. Then we'd have a massive delivery of household paints, which we'd mix into smaller pots of whatever colours we needed. We'd have hundreds of colours: no two were ever the same. A six-foot square canvas with spots four inches apart would take about a week. Every painting was sold.

It was quite simple really. With the spot paintings: it was, just a formula. Damian didn't need to have much input. Most of the time, there were two of us, although it would depend on how quickly he wanted them churned out. We were just the small fry. I came out of Goldsmiths [University] thinking I can't do anything, so I did these. Although they were all hand-painted, meaning each one is imperfect, there is no individual quality to the painting.

Lots of the Old Masters had people doing things for them. Damien created the idea; we just did the manufacturing. It would have been nice to have been credited in some way. We didn't feel he was particularly grateful, but it's quite a nice thing to be able to say you have done. Whenever my kids do a project on famous artists at school, they always do Damien Hirst. It means they can say: "My mum did the spot paintings."

Kerry Ryan

Has been making neon signs for more than 20 years, for artists including Tracey Emin, Anselm Kiefer and Mat Collishaw – as well as shops and restaurants.

About 20 years ago, Tracey Emin and Cerith Wyn Evans came into my shop in Spitalfields, London, separately, to ask for neons. It seemed to be getting used more and more in art. The first piece I made for an artist was the word EXIT backwards, TIX3, for Cerith, then a neon for the Tracey Emin Museum in Waterloo, then a piece for Sarah Lucas, a neon coffin she called New Religion. I now make all Tracey's neons for the UK and Europe: drawings and whole sentences in her handwriting.

I started nearly 30 years ago, via an apprenticeship on Brick Lane, when I was 16. Working with artists has inspired me to be more artistic myself. It's nice to see the transition from sketch to finished piece on the wall of a gallery or a collector's house. So I've been making my own work – in neon, metal, vinyl. I've also, over the years, worked out how to make underwater neon, which in theory you can't do but I found a way. It was for putting in fish tanks, although not all fish can cope with it. We tried electric eels, piranhas, all sorts. But we found that carp are tough enough.

Because neon is such a specialist field, I end up being a sort of consultant as well as a fabricator. For example, I have to explain that there are some things that just cannot be made in neon: it can't do folds or corners; it has to be curved or rolled. Conversely, I sometimes find myself suggesting even more risk-taking. I do feel essential to the process.

Working with artists is easier than working with people who want a sign for their restaurant or shop. Most artists tend to know exactly what they want, and tend to respect people who know their trade. They also understand materials and processes, as that's what they think about all day.

Art is all about the idea now: I think using fabricators makes art more valid and not less, from a conceptual point of view. If an artist has an idea, it can still take a lot of work to realise. As far as I'm aware, no artist who uses fabricators ever sits on their behind and lets other people get on with it. I don't know any people who work harder than artists.

Paul Vanstone

Former stonecarver for Anish Kapoor. He now exhibits his own work.

Anish Kapoor's work is very boring to make because it's so methodical, so precise. Changes could be measured in millimetres. There was a lot of to-ing and fro-ing. I'm a bit more random with my own work.

Anish is very good at making things himself: he knows what's what. But carving is very physical. He could use a stonemason but prefers to use an artist, so he obviously wants that artist's sensibility. I ended up going to quarries for him, driving across Spain looking for materials. That was fabulously useful, the sort of thing you never learn at art college.

The common analogy is that you wouldn't expect an architect to build his own building. Constantin Brancusi worked for Auguste Rodin, Anthony Caro for Henry Moore. It's understandable: you absorb or reject the skills of what comes before you, and then hopefully find your own voice. At the same time, you can't imagine Francis Bacon handing over his paintings to anyone else at any point. One thing that has changed with fabrication is that a lot of the artworks are like executive toys. They're just so controlled. In my own art, I look for more of a dialogue.

Mike Smith

Has made work for artists including Jake and Dinos Chapman, Mona Hatoum, Rachel Whiteread, Mark Wallinger and Damien Hirst.

The most difficult piece I've worked on was probably Monument for Rachel Whiteread because it was so fraught. The piece, which sat on the fourth plinth at Trafalgar Square in 2001, was 11 and a half tons of polyurethane resin, carved into two pieces and made to look like a mirror image of the plinth. We worked on it for three years and then it was on show for six months. If we were to do it now, it would be easier because of the way materials and processes have developed.

It's pretty annoying how little people understand the processes of making contemporary art. Many of them would be horrified if they thought that photographers didn't take their own photographs. But how do they think Henry Moore made those bronzes? It's a lot like making a large car or a truck. I think there's a lack of understanding of the process. There are people who latch on to the fact that peopleartists are not making things themselves. There are even trained art historians who take issue with it. That's the scary thing. The moral outrage – the idea that we're all being duped because we're paying all this money and the work's not being made by the artists themselves – is ridiculous. What's more interesting is whether a piece is good or bad.

Steve Farman

Former negative cutter on major films from Lassie to Batman Begins. Worked on Tacita Dean's Film, recently shown in Tate Modern's Turbine Hall.

The Tacita Dean piece was the highlight of my career. I'm 52 now and I've been doing this since I was 17. It was the film I've had the most approval for. I felt appreciated, not just a very small cog in a massive machine. And Tacita's film was such a mess. As I recut it, I was saying: "Oh God, you can't have this bit – but you can use that. This bit's got marks on it, but you can use it – it makes it look more like film."

We started at midday on a Tuesday and she stayed with me until eight the next morning. I remember, at a reception for the piece, somebody asked how long I'd known Tacita, and I said we spent the night together last Tuesday.

That was my first major foray into the art industry. Compared to the film world, people are much nicer. They've got time to be nice because it's much slower paced. It was a bit surreal for me because I'd always been in the background. I remember, while working on [Wolfgang Petersen's] Troy, I only managed to speak to the third assistant director, not the director, not the first assistant director, not the second. That's the difference.

I'm of a different generation. If I stop, then effectively there'll be nobody left in the UK doing negative cutting. The 23-year-old editors working today have never touched film; they have no idea what it can do. Someone asked if I knew how a certain part of Tacita's work had been done and I said: "Oh yes, that piece of film was put through the camera 13 times." And they said: "Why wasn't it done digitally?"

It's a touchy-feely thing. Tacita still wants physically to touch the film. But as it's such an expensive medium, artists are the only ones willing to go down that route – because they love it.

Rungwe Kingdon

Runs Pangolin foundry in Stroud, Gloucestershire, one of the largest in the country. It has cast work for Eduardo Paolozzi, Lynn Chadwick, Damien Hirst and Antony Gormley.

I tried to be a sculptor and, although I could make all sorts of things, I recognised that I didn't have a language. Skilful people can make anything, but that doesn't mean it will be made well or can touch a large number of people. The language has to be distinct. A good fabricator can take an artist's language and work with it, a bit like a translator.

I'm not interested in how many assistants Rodin had. I'm interested in his language, his vision. Big artists have a big language – and Rodin's was monumental. Before him, it was tight, talented and dead, everyone worrying about the last hair.

Getting credit has never bothered me in the slightest. We're silent collaborators. We don't have the big ideas ourselves. We'd be ridiculed if we tried. There are a lot of mediocre artists and I didn't want to be another one.

I won't work for just anyone. I have to get into their language, understand them. We solve problems. Some artists will come to us and want an exact reproduction of a model. Others aren't very practical: they might come with some amorphous idea and want us to grab hold of the smoke. We help them fit their ideas into a practical reality. You go through very long periods of incubation, working on drawings with the artist. Once you get an image you have to try to fit it to a material. There is the technical challenge and the challenge of interpreting ideas

I don't think we should be surprised if the general public think it is fraudulent. What's really important is that things are made with integrity. If the artists pretended things were all their own work, that would be fraudulent. But we deal with artists, not charlatans. © 2012 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved. | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds

March 12 2012

Artists come together in a Crisis

The Crisis Commission at London's Somerset House will feature new works by artists including Gillian Wearing, Antony Gormley and Tracey Emin

A small and poignant bronze sculpture of a young man called Craig – who became homeless after serving in Afghanistan – will greet visitors to a new exhibition to raise awareness and money for the charity Crisis.

The work by Gillian Wearing goes on display at Somerset House in London on 14 March along with new pieces by artists including Antony Gormley, Tracey Emin, Sir Anthony Caro and Jonathan Yeo. All the works will be sold on 3 May, with the money going to the charity for single homeless people, Crisis.

Wearing said she was inspired by the real story of Craig O'Keefe who became homeless after returning from duty in Afghanistan. Eventually, with the help of Veteran's Aid, he managed to get work and a flat and is now a volunteer tutor for Crisis.

"Crisis were great because they really wanted artists to get involved directly with their charity," said Wearing. She was part of a workshop meeting people who work for and used its services. "It wasn't a passive involvement which I really thought was important."

Emin offered four works: two self-portraits and two neon signs saying Trust Me and Trust Yourself. She said they were words we often say to others and to ourselves. "Sometimes such statements need to be reaffirmed. The use of neon makes it all the more positive."

The two self-portraits, Deep Blue III and Deep Blue V, are part of a series Emin created for her forthcoming show at Turner Contemporary in Margate, in which she explores the idea "of the body becoming older, self-loathing and the notion of self-preservation".

Emin said she did not do anything different because the show was for Crisis. "I'm quite impressed at what a big show it is and how serious it is and not just a charity event."

Gormley has made a cast iron sculpture of a person we assume to be homeless. "The most challenging social sculpture of our times is made by the quiet performances of the homeless within the shelter provided by the doorways of the shops of our inner cities."

He said he was trying to evoke a fallen body which is, nevertheless, not at rest. "This exhibition allows one to think about those bodies that have no place. I believe that sculpture can powerfully evoke the nameless, the voiceless and the placeless."

The Crisis Commission show raises money and awareness at a crucial time, says the charity. After years of declining trends, 2010 represented a turning point when all forms of homelessness began to rise. In 2010/11, 3,975 people slept rough in London, an 8% rise on the previous year.

The show runs until 22 April and will also feature work by homeless and vulnerable people who have been helped by Crisis.

The charity's chief executive Leslie Morphy said: "We are thrilled that so many leading contemporary artists are participating in the Crisis Commission. This prestigious event will raise much needed funds for our work and bring a new focus to the worrying current rise in homelessness in society."

Other works in the show include Yinka Shonibare's Homeless Man, 2012, which shows a vibrantly dressed Victorian man weighed down by 11 suitcases. The artist said: "The idea of the work is to suggest that any privileged person can become vulnerable at any time due to circumstances outside of their own personal control, such as illness, death of a relative, war or unfortunate economic circumstances."

The artist Bob and Roberta Smith (also known as Patrick Brill) has made a piece called Kite because of its association with isolation and the elements. "My kite has 'help' written on it. It is a cry for help by the person flying it."

Brill said he was aware of homelessness rising and taught in an art school where some of his students are homeless. "Homelessness is about isolation. Homes are not just roofs and walls – they are networks – about nurture and care."

The show has been curated by Laurence Sillars, chief curator at the Baltic in Gateshead and the cost of creating the works has been met by GlaxoSmithKline. All of them will be auctioned at Christie's on 3 May. © 2012 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved. | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds

January 28 2012

Feelgood art: the pick-me-up to get us through an age of anxiety

British artists used to delight in shocking audiences, but now many are involved in projects intended to cheer people up

Young British artists once rocked the world with a volley of pickled animal cadavers, unmade beds and flicking light switches. But now, against the backdrop of a grim economic climate, some of the movement's biggest stars appear to be concentrating on cheering us all up.

Feelgood artwork is everywhere, from the life-affirming London Underground project of Michael Landy, who has invited commuters to log incidents of kindness, to the uplifting public art commissioned for the top of bus shelters to herald the Olympics.

"There is a second world war kind of thing going on about 'keeping the home fires burning' at the moment; a bit of 'keep calm and carry on' art, if you like," said the Turner prize-winning artist Jeremy Deller this weekend as he prepared for the opening of his retrospective show, Joy in People, on London's South Bank next month. However, his own work, as he explains, is not intended as a simple pick-me-up.

"The title of my show is apparently positive, but the show itself isn't all positive. There is anger and there is frustration too," he said.

Other leading artists, such as Martin Creed and Tracey Emin, who established their careers with work on challenging themes, are now producing art that urges their public to think positive thoughts. "Don't Worry", reads Creed's neon work, while several of Emin's recent neon signs are equally direct, reading "Trust Me" and "I Keep Believing in You". The Turner prize-nominated artist Mark Titchner is one of those to contribute to Bus Tops, a Cultural Olympiad project which has seen inspirational digital commands such as "Act or be Acted Upon" and "If you don't like your life, you can change it" adorning London bus shelters.

Much of this work is tongue-in-cheek, or at least invites a few questions, but the overall effect is to emphasise the better things about human existence.

"When times are difficult, values are going to be questioned," said Ralph Rugoff, director of the Hayward Gallery. "You look again at what's important and at what's less important in life. It is usually a time when culture and art can play an important part, whereas in a boom period there is too much focus on the hype around the boom and on all the alluring baubles it holds out before us."

Rugoff, who is staging the Deller show and an exhibition of the wry sketches of David Shrigley, is clear that art should not be regarded as "a nice sedative we can take together … What it can do, though, is function as a catalyst and bring people together. Art can connect them in new ways."

On Tuesday, a group of artists including Gillian Wearing, Antony Gormley, Yinka Shonibare and Jonathan Yeo are to launch a more practical response to the financial slump. The group are staging a major exhibition in London this spring that will raise money for the homelessness charity Crisis. "Art reflects on situations in ways that cold hard facts can't," said Wearing, who won the Turner prize in 1997. "It tries to make sense of the world subjectively, whereas facts tend to ignore our subjectivity."

Her partner is Landy, and she explains that the idea behind his Acts of Kindness on the London Underground came to him before the financial crisis took hold. "For me it was powerful that an artist was working with kindness, something that we easily overlook," she said this weekend. "It actually inspired some works of mine, including the one for the Crisis Commission, where I wanted to look at people who have overcome difficulties in life and have become heroes."

But on the weekend when film-maker Danny Boyle, director of the Olympics opening ceremony, announced his Isle of Wonders theme, Deller for one is decidedly grumpy about the pressure to be jolly in preparation for the summer. "The Olympics, of course, is something that will attempt to brainwash artists into expressing positive things," he said. "Some will. But I am the kind of person who will try and do the opposite. I find these big cultural and sporting events unbearable."

In 2009 Deller invited London Underground staff on the Piccadilly Line to help him produce a booklet of quotes called What is the City But People. The booklet aimed "to generate a more positive atmosphere during peak times", but his best known work also tackles the violent 1984 confrontations between striking miners and police and the Iraq war. His recent work What It Is, the remains of a car destroyed at Al-Mutanabbi book market in Baghdad, will be in the new exhibition.

"Historically, art began by giving people what they needed, as it was tied up with religion. Now it is much more fragmented and it can be about how miserable and rotten things are," he said. His own collaborative work with the public is born of the fact that he is not traditionally trained, Deller suggests, as much as it is due to his belief and interest in people.

"At its simplest, I would say art is another way of looking at life, or perhaps another way of dealing with it."

Deller points out that BritArt started under a Conservative government "in difficult times" and was later "appropriated by the Blair regime".

"At that point it did all become a bit celebratory," he said.

For several young artists the benevolent act of making communal art has become part of the reason for doing it. Max Dovey, 23, is one of the artists featured in the 2012 Catlin guide to the 40 most promising art school graduates. "Apart from one or two notable exceptions, the response by new artists to the recession hasn't been as political or aggressive as one might have expected," said Justin Hammond, who wrote the guide. "Looking at the selected artists, there's a lot of humour running through the work though, and Max Dovey's work is very much about encouraging communication and embracing the idea of community."

"The Emotional Stock Market, which was the piece I did last year, was about trading well-being as a commodity like shares," said Dovey, who is from Bristol and lives and works in south London. "There was a lot of political talk about moving away from gross domestic product to valuing how people were feeling, and my piece was a satire or a comment on that. We tracked the levels of well-being by looking at status updates on Facebook and at Twitter to see how many were happy or sad, and then we traded them in live performance."

Dovey argues that there is a new growth of "careful art" among contemporaries who are making community projects. "Artists don't want to shock or upset. There is more interest in how art makes people feel and the experience of art has become at least as important as the practice of it." © 2012 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved. | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds

January 25 2012

Indian art fair draws big names to Delhi

Damien Hirst, Tracey Emin and Antony Gormley among those seeking a slice of the still booming Indian market

Outside was India: a snarl of traffic, screaming horns, hustling taxi drivers and a single forlorn cow. Inside was calm: glasses of white wine, canapés and, for the first time in the country, the giants of the contemporary art world.

"We've brought Damien [Hirst], Tracey [Emin], Gary [Hume], Mark [Quinn] and Antony [Gormley]," said Graham Steele, director of the London-based White Cube gallery, as he watched a who's who of the south Asian art world file into the first India Art Fair on Wednesday. The event opens to the public on Thursday.

Previously known as the India Art Summit, the fair's new name reflects its growing commercial importance. Ninety-one exhibitors from 20 countries are showing work by more than 1,000 artists, and tens of thousands of visitors are expected.

The event in Delhi has attracted a slew of international artists and dealers, all keen to get a slice of the still booming Indian market. This is the first time White Cube and the Zurich and London-based dealers Hauser & Wirth, as well as Damien Hirst's own Other Criteria gallery, have travelled to Delhi.

Suhel Seth, a Delhi-based analyst and lobbyist, said their presence reflected the growing importance of the Indian market. "This whole fair shows how the best galleries from across the world are making directly for India. The fair is running like clockwork and I've never seen so many chairmen of auction houses," said Seth, who had just paid more than £10,000 for a Hirst print.

Charlotte Nunn, manager of Other Criteria, said India was "relatively unexplored". Prices for Hirst's work on show at the fair ranged from £2,100 to £38,100. Many items featured bright colours – pinks and yellows – and glittering "diamond glass", and had in part had been selected to please Indian tastes, Nunn said.

Experts say art prices in India, as in China, have declined recently after surging through the last decade, but demand remains strong. "There is a serious interest in more cutting-edge Indian contemporary art for the first time," said Abhay Maskara, a dealer based in Mumbai, India's commercial capital. "The big museums are all sending teams. They are actively thinking that they need some Indian element in their collections and that is very new."

One problem remains India's notorious bureaucracy. Many exhibitors had brought works only to show rather than sell, to avoid risk paying punitive duties. Others complained that works had been damaged by customs officers. "It will get better as the art market develops but now you get the feeling there's no concept of 'fragile'," one said.

Beyond the international artists and dealers is a thriving experimental art scene in most major cities. Maskara represents Shine Shivan, from Kerala, in the south of India, who has created a series of vast works out of deer and cow dung.

Shivan, 28, who has exhibited at the Tate Modern as part of a group show in 2010, also works with birds nests, human hair and dentures. "It's the first day and so I'm waiting to see if I will sell. My work is very challenging though. My cow dung sculptures are 15 feet high and cost 600,000 rupees (£7,800)," Shivan said.

Not far from the fair's site in the urban sprawl of Delhi is the Khog International Artists Association, an independent non-profit group founded in 1997 to encouraging avant-garde activities,. where many of India's most famous current contemporary artists started. Pooja Sood, director of the group, said the booming market had advantages and disadvantages. "It was a very impoverished scene before … though when it becomes only about the market I have my reservations," she said. "[However] it's a very exciting time for India artistically and very good to be a part of it." © 2012 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved. | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds

January 17 2012

Damien who? Meet the new breed of YBA

The YBA days of pickled sharks and stardom are long gone, but as a new art guide shows, there is top talent for a soberer time

As Damien Hirst dusts off his £50m diamond skull in preparation for his Tate Modern retrospective this spring, a new generation of young British artists are working in a very different climate from the brash super-confidence of his 1990s heyday.

"Before I did an art degree I knew I wasn't doing it for financial gain," says Max Dovey, 24, who graduated with a first in fine art from Wimbledon Art College last year.

"At art school I was always telling everyone else that no one would be a successful artist, to make sure they had a skillset so they'd be employable and [not to] wait to be picked by [Charles] Saatchi because it won't happen."

Yet there are flecks of light for Britain's fledgling painters, sculptors performance artists and video installation-makers – not least from the Catlin Guide 2012, being launched at the London Art Fair on Wednesday.

The guide showcases what its editor, Justin Hammond, claims are the country's 40 most promising young artists.

Some art world observers say the guide is premature, as it is based on BA and MA graduate shows. But many of those chosen – from recommendations by tutors, bloggers, collectors and critics – have received recognition elsewhere.

Alison Stolwood's work was selected for the influential Bloomberg New Contemporaries show at London's ICA. That work, a photographic animation of a wasp's nest spinning back and forth, has been sold and will be exhibited at Preston's Harris Museum later this year.

Meanwhile, Royal College of Art graduate Jonny Briggs has defied Dovey's dire prediction and has sold work to Saatchi, But the days of Hirst and the Young British Artists (YBAs) – when this would have been a fast track to stardom – have long passed.

In October Briggs, 26, won New Sensations, a competition created by the Saatchi Gallery and Channel 4 to find Britain's most talented art graduate.

His work documents his attempts to "connect with his childhood self", and includes a photograph of him wearing a giant wooden mask made to look like his father's face.

This theme could be taken as making a virtue out of necessity; Briggs cannot afford to move out of his parents' home, though he does rent a studio in a former factory in south London "where Twiglets were invented".

Of the other artists picked by the Catlin Guide, Gabriella Boyd, a graduate of the Glasgow School of Art who was runnerup in the competition, has managed to fund her large-scale oil paintings through portraiture commissions.

Adeline de Monseignat, who makes disconcerting sculptures she accurately calls "hairy eyeballs", works as a nanny to pay the rent on her studio. But she has recently sold two works.

Catherine Parsonage, 22, considers herself "incredibly lucky" to have won a scholarship from the RCA, though, she says, she is "struggling – it's expensive to live in London".

Her portrait of her friend Charlotte was longlisted for the BP Portrait award at the National Gallery last year.

Few young artists are producing work with the in-your-face iconoclasm of classic YBA works such as Hirst's shark in formaldehyde or Tracey Emin's My Bed.

Dovey is a performance artist. Previous work includes The Emotional Stock Market, which recreated an exchange based on the "trading" emotions every time they were mentioned on Twitter.

He says that the bold individualism of the YBA years, when art schools encouraged students to create their own brand identity to make them stand out in the art market, has given way to more diverse, less easily digested work, as well as a more sober attitude. "The YBAs made art school a very cool place to be, and possibly a very golden route to stardom," he says.

"Slowly there are becoming more and more realists around the art school environment. "With the rise in fees, I hope prospective students looking at creative courses in art school will value coming out with an employable skills-set over a strong professional art identity.

"So the effect of the YBAs on academia is slowly wearing off, which – looking at the economics and the politics – is probably a really good thing."

Most of the artists say the tough financial climate has led to a greater atmosphere of collaboration and mutual support.

Stolwood says that her peer group from Brighton University "email if there are any competitions people should apply for", while Boyd's colleagues band together to try to stage exhibitions.

Though this year's students have to contend with increased fees, the British art market is still buoyant, outperforming the stock market by 9% last year.

De Monseignat says that while she will go and see Hirst's retrospective, the YBAs are now part of art history.

"At some point every artist has to be interested in them and understand what happened at that point in the UK," she says. "It's a very important period."

And despite Hirst's continuing presence, one that seems a long way in the past. © 2012 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved. | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds

December 30 2011

December 26 2011

The Tracey Emin effect: where art overcomes austerity

Turner, Hepworth, FirstSite – the success of new galleries is making the case for culture-led regeneration

Across the UK, 2012 will be the year where art meets sport in hundreds of towns and villages. Such is the yearning for new cultural experiences outside the capital that the Cultural Olympiad has the power to regenerate ailing parts of the country, if the events are of a high enough quality. My experience in a corner of Kent has taught me that.

As chair of the Turner Contemporary gallery in Margate, one of the south-east's most deprived towns, I have witnessed one of the cultural success stories of 2011 at first hand. More than a third of a million visitors have come through its doors since it opened in April, more than twice the predicted number in half the time. Some are locals, including thousands who have never been to a gallery before; others have come from much further afield, including foreign tourists who have added it to their must-see destinations in Britain. According to research, more than 15,000 of the visitors so far say they have never been to an art gallery or museum in their lives.

Margate might be blazing a trail, but it is far from unique. Galleries have blossomed across the regions over the past decade. One or two may have struggled to make their mark, but the vast majority have received critical and community acclaim. The Baltic in Gateshead is thriving again, as its hosting of the Turner prize attests; Nottingham Contemporary opened to great plaudits in 2009; the FirstSite art gallery in Colchester is a welcome addition; and the arrival of the Hepworth Wakefield last May – the second of David Chipperfield's fantastic constructions after Turner Contemporary – creates an artistic hub in south Yorkshire, with the Yorkshire Sculpture Park and the Henry Moore Institute nearby.

The Ikon has great expansion plans for a new museum quarter in the centre of Birmingham, comprising a museum of photography and a new museum of international art dating from 2000 – all linked to the arrival of high speed rail. Modern Art Oxford too has grand ambitions. Throw in the Arnolfini, resplendent on Bristol's waterfront, the Middlesbrough Institute of Modern Art (Mima) and others, and art-goers will surely need no convincing that life does not begin and end in London – a lesson the Spanish and Germans learned a long time ago, and the French are catching up with too (think Lille and Metz).

Artistic institutions outside the capital – from the visual arts to theatre, music and beyond – have traditionally been overlooked by governments and private funders, so they must shout louder in order to be heard through a combination of excellence and strong local engagement. These two are not contradictory. Indeed, they enhance each other.

At Margate, where many local people were either sceptical or hostile to the idea of a new gallery, the scale of the success has transformed opinion. A new spirit of entrepreneurship is taking hold, even amid the economic gloom. The Old Town, a warren of lanes just behind the seafront, is packed with boutiques, pubs and cafes. With flair and business savvy, other parts of the town will follow suit.

It is still early to gauge the full extent of the gallery's economic and social impact, but initial research shows more than 35 new businesses have opened in the Old Town, with dozens of new jobs either created by Turner Contemporary or directly resulting from it. It was the regenerative effect, as much as the art and architecture, which led to the Queen's visit last month. Southeastern trains have registered a 30% increase in passengers on the route even before the opening of Turner and the Elements, the gallery's first major show of the painter's work. This will be followed by the first show of Tracey Emin's new works in her home town, and Margate will feature on the Today programme on Wednesday morning, which Emin is guest-editing.

So what are the broader lessons to be learned here? Clearly, in the new world of austerity, cultural institutions have to fight hard just to survive. But in some ways the chill is salutary. Artistic and other third-sector bodies should not rely on being "helped" or "saved" by the state just because they are, or think they are, "doing good". In broad terms, Darwinian rules should apply. The best will survive and thrive, if they have the right combination of excellence, inclusiveness, education and a strong business model. Those mired in an old-fashioned sense of entitlement are much more likely to fail. A mix of private and public funding should not be beyond the reach of institutions with ambition, wherever they are based and whether large or small.

Many more dynamic regional arts organisations are collaborating. Joint programming – in which galleries share the same or similar shows in consecutive seasons – is increasingly common. Sharing back office services is useful but its merits can be overstated; far more important is informal collaboration between directors, curators, finance managers and boards, now happening as a matter of course – some under the umbrella of a network called Plus Tate, some under the Arts Council, and some ad hoc. Galleries regularly cross-market: there is no competition for visitors between institutions in, say, the north-east and south-west. The biggest challenge, given the London-centric media, is to make sure potential tourists know of these galleries' existence – and success.

Hard-headed planning for long-term investment and benefit is one thing; short-term and short-sighted monetising is quite another. A key to bringing people into galleries, particularly new audiences, is free admission. It is, as Nick Serota, the director of the Tate, puts it, one of the signs of a civilised culture. British galleries and museums are, he adds, "uniquely egalitarian spaces" – unlike in many equivalent countries.

So are Turner, the Hepworth and FirstSite the last in a generation? The real problem is going to be the funding for capital projects in the future. With local authority budgets being slashed, and the Arts Council having to operate on lower budgets, the prospect for investment in new-build is slim. Yet the social and economic case for ambitious, culture-led regeneration has surely been made. To abandon the approach now, in its prime, would be a tragedy, particularly for those parts of the UK that many decision-makers struggle to reach. © 2011 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved. | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds

December 15 2011

Why Tracey Emin is top draw at the Royal Academy

The appointment of Emin as professor of drawing at the RA might surprise some. But this outstanding draughtswoman can draw a line that communicates feeling every time

Tracey Emin is the right choice for professor of drawing at the Royal Academy. At last, after centuries of getting it wrong, the institution that William Blake saw as a conspiracy against true art has got something right.

In the 18th century, the Royal Academy crushed the hopes of ambitious artists like James Barry, who wanted to raise the game of British art with a more imaginative direction, and enshrined the role of art as aristocratic decor and portraiture – provoking Blake's wrath.

In the 19th century it championed the pedantries of Victorian painting and helped exclude the impressionist revolution from these shores, holding us up on the road to modern art.

In the 20th century it maintained that exclusion of the new. Its famous president, the sporting painter Alfred Munnings, proposed to horsewhip Picasso.

Finally, in this century, it has done something intelligent. Emin is an excellent choice as drawing professor. So is Fiona Rae for the professorship of painting. Both are technically accomplished and genuinely interested in the media they profess. Rae is less of a celebrity but her many-layered abstractions are fascinating, intelligent works of art. She should have got a Turner prize years ago.

So should Emin, for that matter, though missing her Turner moment hasn't held her back any. Fame is like smoke, it gets in your eyes. A lot of people can't forgive Emin her glamour. But the evidence of her talent is there, on paper. Her drawings are the Real Thing. If you dismiss them you are foolhardy. She is an expressionist whose jagged angry line communicates feeling every time. Surely this is true art in drawing – to convey emotion through the texture of a line. Emin is a very pure artist in this very pure sense. She can draw a line that says everything she wants or needs to say. None of her gestures in other media say more than those rough, rapid scrawled lines. Emin is an outstanding draughtswoman – let's hope she can pass on her gift to students. © 2011 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved. | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds

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