Tracey Emin's Chess Set travels to Whitworth

  • 21 January 2010

The Whitworth Art Gallery, The University of Manchester has acquired an original new work by British artist Tracey Emin with help from The Art Fund, the UK's leading independent art charity.

Tracey Emin’s Travelling Chess Set (2008) was acquired for £25,000, of which The Art Fund contributed £9,375. The work was placed on public display in the gallery on 15 January, presented in its own antique-style ‘museum’ vitrine.

The piece comprises bronze chess pieces resting on a ‘board’ made from pieced-together cloth squares, some with printed or inked images and text. In this work the artist uses the historic game of chess as a metaphor for the heated intimacies of courtship, with the patchwork 'board' resembling a miniature blanket. A lover’s message on the ribbon-tied pouch made for storing the chess pieces reinforces the connection.

Stephen Deuchar, Director of The Art Fund, said: "This warm and witty work, elaborate in form and theme, exemplifies all the strengths of Tracey Emin, one of the UK’s leading contemporary artists. The Art Fund is delighted to have helped bring this piece to the Whitworth, whose fine and decorative art collections - free of charge to the public - provide it with a perfect context."

Travelling Chess Set sits within a long tradition of artists producing chess sets and using the imagery of the game to express ideas about love, war and play. For example, the artists Marcel Duchamp, Man Ray, Salvador Dalí and Max Ernst all produced chess sets.

It is the second work by Tracey Emin acquired for UK public collections with the assistance of The Art Fund. Earlier this year, The Art Fund enabled Aberdeen Art Gallery to acquire a pink and blue neon light installation by Emin entitled For You (2008).