Interview: Tracey Emin Reveals Comfort Of Art As She Unveils New Work For MTV RE:DEFINE Project

Tracey Emin

First Posted: 07/09/11 12:32 Updated: 06/11/11 10:12

Love or loathe her, Tracey Emin has always sparked a strong reaction in even her mildest bystanders.

It's now 14 years since she first impinged on the public consciousness with her infamous tent (pegged with notes detailing Everyone I Have Ever Slept With), swiftly followed by My Bed (unmade and scattered with a host of uncomfortably personal debris). Perhaps through sheer longevity and familiarity since then, her mantle is becoming one of a more gentle stateswoman of the high-octane art world.

This year, she joins Damien Hirst, Rankin and a roster of other successful artists in donating work valued at more than $1m to the RE:DEFINE benefit art exhibition, staged at Kenny Goss and George Michael's Foundation gallery in Dallas, Texas. This exhibition marks the 30th anniversary of the discovery of the AIDS virus, and proceeds will go to the MTV Staying Alive Foundation..

Emin remains an energising cocktail of controversy, commercial savvy and compassion - recently, her always political statements have been punctuated with more revealing comments about her fears for growing old alone. Read how art has become her emotional solace in this exclusive interview with Huffington Post UK:

What moved you to get involved with this project?

I have been working with AIDS charities for a long time and I am a patron of the Terrence Higgins Trust. Every year in my own way, I spend a lot of energy and time trying to raise awareness of AIDS and HIV. I have had many friends who have died from the virus and it really worries me that people are not taking it as seriously as they should, especially younger generations.

This is by no means the first time you've donated work to organisations dear to you. How do you decide what charities to become involved with?

It is really difficult because there are so many now. First of all it depends on how much the cause matters to me. And also how professional the charity is. But other than that it's just my own personal choice. But it does hurt me that some charities are over-eager and regard me as enemy number one if, at a time, I can't donate something.

Do you think creative people have a responsibility to contribute like this to society if they're successful, or is it an individual choice?

Not creative people - but successful people do. Society really needs people to take care of it. And those that are in a stronger position are obviously in a better position to give.

These works will be brought together at the Goss-Michael Foundation - what is special about this place?

George and Kenny are very special to me. They have a big appreciation of my work and have done for years and we are very good friends and I just really respect and admire the way they have used their success to help others through art.

Kenny Goss and George Michael are only two famous names you can number among your admirers - why do you think people in the limelight (also Orlando Bloom, Madonna and David Bowie) are drawn to your work?

These people are very successful and they have an appreciation of art. They are also very emotional people and they relate to what I do. In the case of David Bowie who I met 15 years ago for the first time, it seemed quite obvious to me that he would like my work because I had liked his lyrics all my life and I can truly say that he was a massive influence on me. Often these things can go both ways. But I'm always deeply flattered.

Have you ever had cause to regret digging into such personal stories for your art as The Tent, The Bed and making them public, or do fewer secrets means less fear?

Fewer secrets do mean less fear. And I know that there's a price to pay for what I've done and what I do. This is possibly why it's very difficult for me to have a relationship. But my art has always been my companion. With it I've found some solace and a way in which to live out my future. And I don't regret any work I've made.

The more (in)famous you have become with people regarding you while you're regarding the world, has this made it harder or easier to go inside yourself to create something you wish to share? Or is it just difficult anyway?

It's very difficult anyway but I do have less time and I’m more popular and I’m invited to more parties and I have more friends and all of these wonderful positive things do make it harder for me to make work because I have less time. I have to fight for my time. I have to fight for a place to make work. But I am not famous – let’s definitely stick to infamous.

Finally, what can you tell us about this piece for the Staying Alive Foundation, and where you found your inspiration?

Sometimes when we appear to be crying the tears come from somewhere deep deep deep inside. It's like they've been there for a million years.

Tracey Emin has donated this piece of work to the MTV RE:DEFINE Project for auction later in the month.


MTV RE:DEFINE will be open to the public from September 16 – 23 with a live auction of all 30 works taking place at an exclusive reception on September 24. 100% of the proceeds from the auction will benefit the MTV Staying Alive Foundation, which encourages, energizes and empowers young people who are involved in HIV and AIDS awareness, education and prevention campaigns.

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