Aberdeen Art Gallery secures work by Tracey Emin

An Art Fund grant has secured a work by one of Britain's most acclaimed and successful contemporary artists, Tracey Emin, for Aberdeen Art Gallery

The pink and blue neon work entitled For You which is now hanging [22 October] in the Centre Court of the Gallery, was purchased with assistance from the National Fund for Acquisitions, The Art Fund, the National Collecting Scheme for Scotland and the Friends of Aberdeen Art Gallery & Museums.

Speaking about this important addition to the city’s collections, Art Gallery & Museums Manager Christine Rew said: “We are delighted to add this tender and poignant piece by one of Britain’s leading modern artists to our collections - thanks to generous assistance from our financial supporters.

“Tracey Emin has been at the forefront of British art for the last ten years and this acquisition will build on our objective to acquire and exhibit the best of contemporary art in Aberdeen.”

Andrew Macdonald, Acting Director of The Art Fund said “Simple in its design, but powerful in its personal but universally shared message, this is a striking work by Tracey Emin, one of the most influential artists of her generation. I am delighted that The Art Fund was able to help ensure that this work joined Aberdeen’s excellent public art collection.”

Lead councillor for culture Martin Greig said: "Tracey Emin is one of the most publicised and talked about people in the British art world today. Her stories reflect a particular way of thinking in our consumerist society. The art gallery and the friends have made a bold purchase with significant contemporary resonance."

Tracey Emin studied at the Royal College of Art in London from 1987 to 1989 and during the 1990s became part of the group known as the YBAs (Young British Artists). In 1999 she was short-listed for the Turner Prize and is perhaps best known for the installation piece that she showed My Bed which was a representation of the artist's unmade bed, complete with empty vodka bottles, cigarette packets and condoms. Always a controversial and high profile personality she affirmed her position as a highly regarded and established artist by accepting election to the Royal Academy in March 2007.

Emin is a storyteller whose subject matter comes from her own life. Her artwork often focuses on confessional texts which she combines with deeply personal objects and mementos. Emin regards her big neon pieces as "love poems" as she explains:
"Poetry can be one line, a sentence. When you read the words you imagine what you're seeing; you're given a sense of vision by the words".

For You can be seen as love mutterings, a prayer or an exploration of a moment's emotion frozen in time. The words are scrawled in three separate lines;
I Felt You
And I knew You
Loved me
Their arrangement and the kiss at the end of the message create a strange mixture of anonymity and immediacy that is reminiscent of graffiti, text messages or post-it notes. This particular text could have different meanings: universal and layered, the 'you' whom Emin refers to in the text becomes open, a God, a lover, a protector, a friend, a stranger, everyone or no-one.

The colour of the neon heart is pink, the symbol of love, which is in contrast with the cool blueness of the words inside.

In 1996, Emin made the first of a series of neon pieces which were described by the critic Neal Brown as "molten autobiography [in] pure candyfloss coloured light".

Tracey Emin said: "The good thing about neon is it's not just about the words. It creates an atmosphere. Neon makes people feel happier, which is why you see it at fun fairs."

For You joins Habitat, a powerful sculpture by Emin’s fellow YBA Gavin Turk, bought by Art Fund help in 2004.


Notes to editors

  • The Art Fund is the UK’s leading independent art charity. It offers grants to help UK museums and galleries enrich their collections, campaigns on behalf of museums and their visitors and promotes the enjoyment of art.
  • It is entirely funded from public donations and has 80,000 members. Since 1903 the charity has helped museums and galleries all over the UK secure 860,000 works of art for their collections.
  • Recent achievements include: helping secure Titian’s Diana and Actaeon for the National Galleries of Scotland and the National Gallery, London in February 2009 with a grant of £1 million; helping secure Anthony d’Offay’s collection, ARTIST ROOMS, for Tate and National Galleries of Scotland in February 2008 with a grant of £1million; and running the ‘Buy a Brushstroke’ public appeal which raised over £550,000 to keep Turner’s Blue Rigi watercolour in the UK.
  • For more information contact the Press Office on 020 7225 4888 or visit
  • The Art Fund is a Registered Charity No. 209174.
Back to top