Tracey Emin’s Portrait of Love After Death

Tracey Emin’s Lovers Grave is a visual treatise on how hope perseveres through grief. Emin has long been an iconic artist. Her evolution from Royal College of Art student to acclaimed YBA and Commander (CBE) of the British Empire by appointment of Queen Elizabeth II are among her more obvious achievements. In her personal life, she survived an aggressive bladder cancer and subsequent hysterectomy and cystectomy.

With Lovers Grave at White Cube’s New York location, Emin comes full circle from “Exorcism of the Last Painting I Ever Made” (1996), a confessional work in which the artist grapples with grief, guilt, and anxiety following two abortions.

The five large-scale paintings on the gallery’s first floor, rendered in red, white, black, and blue, confront viewers with details of the artist’s personal life as if we’re privy to her private diary. At an artist talk last November, Emin explained that the works emerged from a 2019 painting of a couple entwined in a coffin. Scenes of ecstasy spill across all four corners of each canvas, leaving little between the lovers to the imagination.

Featured image: Tracey Emin, “Is Nothing Sacred” (2023)

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