Art and Poverty
Tracey Emin | Contemporary Artist

  • Why You Should Care
  • Bio
  • Read It
  • Made By
Why Should You Care

Tracey Emin is no stranger to hardship. Surviving below the poverty line in order to pursue art, Emin’s tenacious and industrious spirit kept her focused during the most challenging time period of her life, her 20s. After a letter-writing campaign and successful solo show garnered attention, Emin finally made serious traction in her career and finally starting “making a living from art.”

In this interview, Emin talks about her letters, what she believes truly makes you an artist, and her first solo show.

Biography

Iconic London-based artist Tracey Emin has been has been recognized as one of the leading figures of the ‘90s YBA (Young British Artists) movement. She is noted for her provocative and sexually explicit work and was inducted into the Royal Academy of Arts in London in 2007.

Tracey Emin was born in 1963 in the seaside town of Margate on the English coast. After leaving school at an early age, Tracey enrolled at the Maidstone College of Art, Kent, to study printmaking and continued her studies at the Royal College of Arts, London.

Emin lived in poverty throughout her twenties, struggling to sustain herself as well as pay off her student debts.

Tracey, however, broke through the art scene in her 30s with the following works:

In 1997, her work Everyone I Have Ever Slept With 1963–1995, a tent with names sown on it, was shown at the Royal Academy in London.

In 1999, Tracey was a Turner Prize nominee and exhibited My Bed — an installation, consisting of her own unmade dirty bed with used condoms and blood-stained underwear.

Today, Tracey is regarded as one of Britain’s most significant contemporary artists. She is internationally recognized for her blunt, personal, and revealing style, which elicits a broad spectrum of emotions ranging from shock to empathy to self-reflection. Drawing on personal experiences, Tracey often portrays painful situations with brutal honesty and poetic humor in a wide variety of media including painting, drawing, embroidery, neon, installation, sculpture, and film.

Read It

In my 20’s, it wasn’t that I didn’t have enough money, it’s I had no money. And after I finished art school, I had a massive debt that I had to pay, and I had very little money. I used to live on 12 pound a week, which is about nothing

And I would have a decision, I could either put money into the electric or money into gas, and sometimes I would sit there and just have to toss a coin to decide if I would have no light or nothing to cook with.

It’s very hard to keep your self respect and regard for yourself and to actually continue believing in art and thinking art is important when you’re that poor.

But always in my life I’ve always had a 5 year plan, and the 5 year plan is that I’m not going to be here in 5 years time, I’m not going to be here. It’s bad.

I didn’t start making a living from my art until I was 34. And then every year, my income doubled. And it still is.

Made By

Cinematography: Gabe Wilson & Danielle Calodney

Audio by: Andreina Velazquez

Edited by: Danielle Calodney

Interviewed by: Laura Lehmann



Danielle Calodney

Danielle Calodney has been called the Chief Content Officer for 20to30, and that is the closest she has ever come to a proper title. She produces, shoots, and edits most 20to30 videos while also taking care of the site. She is grateful to live in a time when playing on the internet and making movies can be combined into one job.


Comments
Continue the 20to30 conversation by sharing this video: