Each month I give my verdict on who has shown the world an interesting and distinctive brand. My latest personal brand of the month goes to…
I’ve personally been a fan of British artist Tracey Emin for years. So when her latest work was unveiled at St Pancras International station earlier this month, I thought I’d take the opportunity to feature her as a Brand of the Month. I was also particularly moved by her latest work; it is meant to be a love letter to Europe.
Tracey Emin is a brand with a voice. One that is soft, bold, passionate and political.
Although she may come across as rather soft spoken in person, her work loudly projects what she believes in. Take her recent piece at St Pancras for example. Not many people can light up a train station with their words. The neon sign is one of the first things you see when arriving from Europe; there is quite literally no escaping her message. Behind it are Paul Day’s bronze statue of two embracing lovers and the large Dent clock, reminders of the frailty of time. Emin explains the romanticism behind the piece: “I cannot think of anything more romantic than being met by someone I love at a train station and as they put their arms around me, I hear them say ‘I want my time with you’.”
But there is a more layered meaning to the piece, one that captures her sentiment towards Brexit: “It’s really a great subliminal message sent out to the rest of Europe … I am deeply, deeply concerned about Europe, and that in a year’s time we’re going to be a tiny little island just floating around in the North Sea. I don’t personally want to leave Europe at all and this is my message to all Europeans. I love Europe.”
At 20 meters long, the work is the largest to date of her trademark texts and her most ambitious public artwork to date.
Tracey Emin is a brand of social responsibility. One that is generous, active and committed to the cause.
Emin is well known for her charity work, something I find particularly admirable. I met Emin a few years ago through my volunteer work with Terrence Higgins Trust (THT), the UK’s leading HIV and AIDS charity. What struck me was not only how hands-on she was with the organization, but how committed she was (and continues to be) to attending events such as THT’s Christie’s Auction. Not only does she generously donate original works every year, but she often spends the night mingling with guests and sometimes even makes a very lively appearance up at the podium with the auctioneer to help increase the highest bid!
Her original artworks also have raised over a million pounds for children’s charities such as the NSPCC and ARK…to name a few.
Tracey Emin is a brand that is authentic to the core.
“Her work is intensely personal, revealing intimate details of her life with brutal honesty and poetic humor.” I found this to be a spot-on description of Emin’s work, which is largely autobiographical and confessional. Sometimes raw, sometimes shocking, her work is always her.
A fantastic example of this is Emin’s installation My Bed (1998), which earned her a nomination for the Turner Prize. The work featured Emin’s unmade bed surrounded by her personal objects (from slippers to empty liquor bottles, cigarette butts, and condoms) in a state of disarray. It’s a highly personal piece exploring the symbolism of a bed as a place of birth, sex, and death, and arose out of a time of emotional despair following a relationship breakdown. Perhaps one of the keys to her success is her ruthless honesty, which often hits at the core of shared human experience.
As part of this authenticity, Tracey Emin is a brand who isn’t afraid to follow her own true path
Emin received significant acclaim during the 1990s, which earned her entry into the Young British Artists (YBA), alongside members such as Damien Hirst and Jake and Dino Chapman. Along the way, she also earned the reputation of iconoclast and provocateur, the “bad-girl of Britart”.
Once described as an artist “as synonymous with the capital’s arts scene as Andy Warhol was to New York”, she is now breaking away from the big city and moving her studio to her childhood home of Margate, Kent.
Her iconic bed also made (unmade?) a return, when exhibited a few months ago at Turner Contemporary in Margate. Emin explained in an interview: “I have been around the world. I am tired. I want to go home. And you know what they say, you can take the girl out of Margate but you can’t take Margate out of the girl.’”