Tracey Emin – from YBA to Art World Superstar

Tracey Emin – from YBA to Art World Superstar

Contemporary British artist Tracey Emin is known for her provocative and unafraid artwork, which often comments on taboo topics such as sex, relationships, sexual assault and abortion. Her style is deeply personal, highly autobiographical and often controversial.

Her rapid rise to artwork superstardom began with her inclusion in what became known as the YBAs in the late 80s early 90s.

In this article, we'll look at her most famous pieces – from the raw and emotional to the humorous and thought-provoking and explore what makes her such an influential artist in today's contemporary art scene.

Who is Tracey Emin, and what is her art style like?

Emin was born in 1963 in London, and she grew up in the seaside town of Margate. She studied at the Royal College of Art, where she began to develop her signature style.


In the late 1980s and early 1990s, Emin garnered attention for her provocative installations and performances, which often included elements of her own life story.

In 1997, she gained international fame with her work Everyone I Have Ever Slept (1963-1995), a tent embroidered with the names of everyone she had ever slept with.

Everyone I Have Ever Slept With (1995)


While her work can be shocking and confronting, it is also profoundly intimate. Crucially, Emin's art style reflects her tumultuous journey through life. Her body of work represents rawness, honesty, and an unafraid ambition to tackle the most challenging subjects.

Tracey Emin, Life Will Never Be The Same (2021)

And for Emin, art is not about pretty pictures or easy answers. It is about speaking her truth, no matter how difficult or painful it may be.

"My job as an artist is to make a soul"

What are some of Emin's most famous works of art?

Perhaps Emin's best-known artwork (so far) is her unmade bed or "My bed" (1998). The artwork consists of a mattress, sheets, and pillows in a state of disarray, which caused quite a stir, with many viewers shocked by its explicit content.

Emin with 'My Bed' (1998)


However, others were drawn to the raw emotion of the piece, and it quickly became one of the most talked-about artworks of the decade.

Many believing the work to be a self-portrait, the work is also often interpreted as a comment on the chaotic state of Emin's own life. She has said that the bed represents "a very personal moment" and "a place where we are most vulnerable."

The Kiss Was Beautiful (2012)

How did Emin become a successful artist at such a young age?

Emin rose to prominence in the late 1990s. During that time, the artist had her solo exhibition, when she was just 26, titled " Every Part of Me's Bleeding" in the United States at Lehmann Maupin Gallery. Her works subsequently sold for millions of dollars, and she became one of the Young British Artists (YBAs), a group of artists who garnered international attention for their avant-garde work.

Tracey Emin, Why I Never Became a Dancer, 1995

She has also been nominated for the prestigious Turner Prize on two occasions. In 2007, she was even shortlisted for Professor of Drawings at the Royal Academy.

Importantly, Emin's willingness to address taboo subjects - such as sex, alcoholism, and mental health - made her a powerful voice in the British art scene. She soon established herself as one of her generation's most influential young artists.

And since her works are often shocking and visually arresting, it helped cement her reputation as a fearless artist. Over the years, she continued to push boundaries with her artworks creating a series of personal paintings that explore issues such as love, loss, and identity.