The art of exhibitionism

Tracey Emin’s controversial exhibition, held in the National Gallery of Modern Art in Edinburgh since the beginning of August, has been a critical and popular success.

This is Emin’s first major retrospective exhibition of her work in the UK and will run until 9th of November. The show, inspired by Emin’s teenage years and traumatic experiences, has garnered a lot of positive comments tempered with shock and amusement.

Patric Elliot, the exhibition curator, said: ‘The work is all about her, so the show is about her and about her whole life, so she was a bit anxious about the public response. This is her life on the walls, and a very negative response could have been hard to take. Happily, the press and public response has been terrific.’

This confessional show covers the past 20 years of Emin’s artwork. It deals with sex, fear, pregnancy, abortion, family and love. It features major installations, including her celebrated ‘My Bed’ from 1998, which comprises of an unmade bed littered with cigarette packets and condoms; embroidered blankets with shocking inscriptions; variety of paintings; sculptures; videos and memorabilia. The show includes some of Emin’s rarely seen early work, such as her room-sized installation, ‘Exorcism of the Last Painting I Ever Made’. It is a replica of the room in the Art Gallery in Stockholm, in which broken, after the abortion of 1990, Emin lived for 3 weeks forcing herself to paint.

Exorcism of the Last Painting I Ever Made, 1996

There are numerous events related with the exhibition. The visitors have the opportunity to sign up for one of the curator’s tours and workshops, such as Saturday Studio, which will be running from the 1st until 22nd of November. Moreover, there will be a chance for those, who wish to see the artist herself. She will be present at a talk held on 29thof October, under the National Gallery (the Weston Link lecture hall) at 6.30pm, by writer and broadcaster, Tim Marlow.

According to the curator it was an absolute pleasure working with Tracey. As he says she is very professional, but also very emotionally involved and committed to the project. The project began over 4 years ago, when Patric Elliot asked Emin if she would like to do a show for the National Galleries of Scotland. The decision was made when she came up and was struck  by the beauty of the Gallery of Modern Art. The show was initially scheduled for 2006 or 2007, then, so as Emin was asked to do the Venice Biennale, it got pushed to 2008.

Now, that the art has been on the walls for over 2 months, it is beyond doubt that Emin’s exhibition is one of the biggest events that have recently taken place in the capital. It has gained a lot of public and media interest. People may say that it is based on self-obsession, but as a leaf through the comments book illustrates, it is a big challenge to come across Emin’s work and remain indifferent to it.

‘Stimulating and touching. An exhibition where you don’t take any postcards or leaflets, you just take your experience’, as one of the comments says.