Tracey Emin accuses her critics of sexism

"The press was cruel, they didn’t just dislike my work, they disliked me - my voice, the way I dress, the way I look, they wouldn’t have carried on that way if I were a man" she tells Vanity Fair interviewer Lauren Christensen
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Tracey Emin
Tracey Emin

There's a great interview with Tracey Emin in this month's Vanity Fair. The interview, with the magazine's Lauren Christensen, was conducted to tie in with Emin's assault on America, which begins in earnest this year. 

Last week the artist placed a single bronze bird (Roman Standard), perched on a 13-foot pole in SoHo. Meanwhile, the Lehmann Maupin gallery, which launched that installation (in collaboration with White Cube and the Art Production Fund) is also hosting Tracey Emin: I Followed You to the Sun. And Emin's first solo museum exhibition in America opens at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Miami at the end of this year.

The bird motif has been a recurring theme in Emin's work. The artist tells Christensen: "They represent something to me which is heavenly, because they fly. It’s like ascension. That was a time in my life when I really needed to rise above the situation I was in, and birds seemed the perfect metaphor for me."

 

Tracey Emin Roman Standard
Tracey Emin Roman Standard

But it's her other comments during the interview that are of equal interest. After letting Christensen in on her coping strategy for bad reviews - "What I usually do now is that with each show, as soon as I finish working at the gallery, I immediately start working on the next show. I always make sure to have the next thing lined up to start working on, so it’s easy to forget about the reviews," she then goes on to accuse some of the bad press directed at her over the years as being gender motivated. Citing her representation of the UK at the Biennale in 2007, she says:

"I was actually really upset about the British press. I was mortified. I was destroyed by it, actually. The press was cruel, because they didn’t just dislike my work; they disliked me, personally—my voice, the way I dress, the way I look, my attitude. I’m sure they wouldn’t have carried on that way if I were a man. I’m absolutely convinced of that." In response to Christensen's question:  You think that you were reviewed more critically because you’re a woman? Emin replies: "Yes," adding, "When someone tells me I can’t do something, I say, “Yes, I can. Watch me.” And I think that can annoy some people. You know that double standard: when men shout, they’re 'taking charge' or 'giving orders,' but when women shout, they’re 'screaming.' It’s that kind of cliché."

 

Tracey Emin at Lehmann Maupin Gallery
Tracey Emin at Lehmann Maupin Gallery

Though she neatly sidesteps the question as to whether her gender may have got in the way of success' (Emin is one of only two female professors at the Royal Academy since its founding) Emin says:

Things have really changed for me. Now that I’ve been around, making this kind of art for 20 years, I think people have started to realise I’m not going away. Also, younger people respond to what I do quite differently, and now that generation is starting to take up greater positions of power. The old-timers are going and the new blood is coming in, so it’s quite healthy."

 

Tracey Emin - She Lay Down Deep Beneath The Sea
Tracey Emin - She Lay Down Deep Beneath The Sea

As always with Tracey Emin it's a great read whether you subscribe to her POV or not. Read it in full here and look at her show here and read about her in The Artists Body (that's her on the cover, above right), Defining Contemporary Art and our full range of art books.


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