Tracey Emin and Francis Bacon at Tate Britain


Tracey Emin and Francis Bacon? You should know by now that of course I'm going to say I loved it (because I did).  You know what's also great? There are very few tossers at the Tate Britain, much less than at Tate Modern. I also feel that I'm allowed to say this, as I have it on good authority (ok so I have a friend that works for Tate) that there are less tossers at Tate Britain.

I must also point out, that I am a tosser, especially when it comes to art.


tracey emin and francis bacon at the tate modern

Look.At.That! It's Tracey Emin's bed! I'm useless at times, so since it's conception I've previously missed chances to see it. This is where those who known nothing about art roll their eyes at me and exclaim, "It's just a bed".


Emin's My Bed is such an important piece of work, it references so many ideas that have featured heavily in the history of art (life, death, decay - think still life paintings), it represents the self (identity, portraiture), it represents that in 1998 all the rules had been completely forgotten. Tracey Emin was nominated for the Turner Prize in 1999 because of that bed (although she did lose to Steve McQueen).

It makes me so angry to see these so-called artists glorifying a messy bedroom. What is the world coming to when a major art exhibition sends out this message? Mother interviewed in The Sun, October 1999

Whenever I try to talk to those who don't 'do' art about contemporary, conceptual art I use My Bed as a reference point. As grown adults, rarely do we invite others into our bedrooms, they are private, intimate spaces, which is what Tracey Emin explores within her art practice. Her drawings (exhibited alongside My Bed and Francis Bacon's work) deal with private and intimate spaces too.

It is in this guise that Tracey Emin and Francis Bacon are juxtaposed together at Tate Britain. Francis Bacon is known for his raw, emotionally charged paintings, that many argue exhibit far more skill than drawings by Emin.

Except no.

There are many similarities between Tracey Emin and Francis Bacon, both have lived rather hedonistic lives at times, there has been debauchery from both sides but in completely different ways. Both artists are, in their own ways, very vulnerable to the world (also see: Munch, Schiele). There is an honesty in their works that creates a very interesting conversation, and one that is, in my mind, valuable.

tracey emin francis bacon

Both Tracey Emin and Francis Bacon also have an element of 'celebrity' to them. Bacon, because he was openly homosexual (when it was still an imprisionable offence), and Emin, because, in part, she turned up live on Channel 4 very obviously pissed. This celebrity has also made both artists controversial and 'shocking', although that shock wanes with the age of the works. Within their works, both Tracey Emin and Francis Bacon wear their hearts on their sleeves.

The intimacy their works command is unnerving at times, especially when we see ourselves reflected back at us and that's what my favourite artists and by extension, artworks do. They confront those parts of me that I might not want to think about, they make me see myself in a new way. Most importantly they make me think. It's through that thinking that I (and you) learn, and learning has so many good things about it.

These works shown as part of the BP Spotlight capture a moment in time, where things were changing, when we were outraged and appalled at beds in galleries, and before that, homosexuals. Exhibiting these works again lets us, as a collective re-think and re-evaluate our previous thoughts and experiences, it lets us see how far we've come as a society; and surely there can't be anything more pertinent than that?

Tracey Emin/Francis Bacon/Tate Britain