The former is a labour of love for the artist, who returned to her hometown after her mother’s death in 2016, keen to play a role in its continuing regeneration. The result was TKE (the moniker is drawn from the initials of Tracey Karima Emin), a collection of subsidised studios and an art school offering a two-year residency programme in a turn-of-the-century converted bathhouse.
Pictures from our recent gallery visit to TKE Studios in Margate.
The studio was funded by the sale of Emin’s painting Like A Cloud of Blood, which raised £2.3 million in a Christie’s auction in October 2022 (fetching three times its high estimate). Painted shortly after her battle with bladder cancer, it’s one of the artist’s favourite paintings.
Tracey Emin, Like A Cloud of Blood, 2022
Credit Tracey Emin
“I realised that, while I’m alive, I’ve got to do all the things I really want to do”
The sale helped Emin play an active part in Margate’s regeneration, something she is passionate about. Speaking at TKE’s opening, the artist said, “This is better than I could ever dreamt or ever imagined. When I grew up in Margate as a little girl that (opposite) was my library, the Sunday School was around the corner that I wasn’t allowed to go to after I was followed home. Margate was such a different place and I am so proud of everybody who has been part of this project and part of Margate’s regeneration generally”.
Much of Emin’s early confessional work focused on experiences during her teenage years in the town when, as Emin put it, “Margate was such a different place”. Among these pieces are the 1995 video Why I Never Became A Dancer, in which she narrates a sometimes harrowing account of her youth against backdrops of Margate’s landscapes, and Hotel International, an embroidered quilt named for the hotel that her father (who split his time between two families) owned in the town.
Stills from Tracey Emin's video, Why I Never Became A Dancer, 1995
© Tracey Emin. All rights reserved, DACS/Artimage 2022
It is Rome not Margate, however, that Emin has chosen for her first exhibition since being diagnosed with bladder cancer. Opening on May 13, You Should Have Saved Me will include a triumphant collection of drawings and paintings exploring both human emotion and the female body.
Not only will these pieces illustrate her incredible painting skill and her talent for expressing raw emotion on canvas, they’ll also show just how far Emin has come since her Margate childhood.
“In life there are so many things we think we should do, that we want to do but we think we have missed our opportunity. If you know it’s there and you can do it .. do it.”
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