Five of Emin's best
As Tracey Emin's major new show, The Last Great Adventure Is You, opens at White Cube, we find her greatest works on display across the UK.
1. I Never Stopped Loving You, 2010
Droit House, Margate
While Emin was born in Croydon, she was brought up in the seaside town of Margate in Kent, where many of her formative experiences – both good and bad – took place. The bright lights of Margate's Golden Mile inspired Emin's use of neon in some of her most recognisable works, and the inspiration came the full circle in 2010 when she created I Never Stopped Loving You, a neon sign professing the artist's lingering sentiments for her childhood haunts. It was commissioned by Margate's Turner Contemporary art gallery, and hangs above the entrance to the Droit House, an iconic building at the head of Margate pier.
2. Roman Standard, 2008
Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art, Edinburgh
One of Emin's most beautiful pieces of public art, Roman Standard was presented to the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art by the artist in 2008. In contrast to the ostentatious showiness of many pieces of public art, Roman Standard is incredibly delicate: a small bronze bird, crafted in Emin's characteristically sketchy style, poised atop a narrow 13-foot-tall pole. Emin has said that the piece 'represents strength but also femininity', while the title is a subversive reference to ancient Roman 'standards' – banners carried into battle.
3. Baby Things, 2008
Originally commissioned for the inaugural Folkestone Triennial in 2008, Baby Things features more than a dozen pieces of baby clothing and toys, recreated in bronze and painted to look identical to the real thing. From a cotton sock to a miniature teddy bear, the pieces have been installed around Folkestone as if dropped or discarded, hanging limply from railings and benches or left at the side of a pavement. A poignant piece, it stands as a forlorn reminder of Folkestone's high teenage pregnancy rate – something the town shares in common with Margate – as well as recalling Emin's own sexual experiences as an adolescent.
4. For You, 2008
Aberdeen Art Gallery
Another of Emin's distinctive hand-blown neon works, For You was bought by Aberdeen Art Gallery and Museums in 2009 with assistance from an Art Fund grant. Standing nearly two metres tall, the piece consists of the phrase 'I felt you and I knew you loved me' signed with a kiss, and framed by a graffiti-esque love heart in pink neon. The use of neon, redolent of innocent childhood entertainment and seedy adult shops, teases out the message's double interpretations, both warmly affectionate and erotically charged.
5. Mitten, 2010
The Foundling Museum, London
The Foundling Museum tells the story of Foundling Hospital, Britain's first home for abandoned children, and at the heart of its collection are the foundling tokens: small items pinned to babies' clothes by their mothers as they gave them up for adoption, to help identify them if their parents ever returned to reclaim their children. Inspired by the tokens, Emin created a bronze mitten for the museum's 2010 exhibition with Mat Collishaw and Paula Rego, and it was permanently acquired later that year thanks to a gift from the artist and an anonymous donation. Today, the tiny bronze cast is on display outside the museum, draped over the museum railing as if abandoned.
Tracey Emin: The Last Great Adventure Is You is at White Cube Bermondsey from 8 October until 16 November 2014.