Tracey Emin: Love is what you want

My review of Tracey Emin’s Hayward show out now in the new September issue of ArtReview magazine. Sign in and read it at

Is Tracey Emin’s art worth discussing? Thousands of column inches are expended in commenting on her work and career, yet for all the discussion of what Emin’s work bears witness to – her chaotic existence, her lifeworld of sexual and emotional turmoil, her abortions, her small-town origins, her artistic redemption – there’s remarkably little examination of why her work seems to attract such attention and compel the kind of responses it does. Perhaps there’s never enough stepping back: reactions are always of the heavily invested kind. You either love Trace or you hate Trace; despise her for her narcissism and self-indulgence, or admire her for her quixotic triumph over life’s adversity; you love her for her hedonistic, punkish assertion of ordinariness and genuine sentiment over social prudishness, artworld etiquette and artistic inauthenticity, or you dismiss her as a ‘media phenomenon’ and decry her work as artless, technically empty; and so on…


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