Tracey Emin and Jay Jopling go, as they say, way back. The artist and the White Cube founder first teamed up in 1993, after Emin wrote Jopling a letter asking if he would invest £10 in her as an artist. She would eventually become the first female artist on his books and, some 10 exhibitions together later, the relationship continues to thrive as well as fascinate – most recently over the summer, when Jopling purchased Emin’s controversial My Bed for a record £2.54m at auction.
My Bed was bought on behalf of the collector Count Duerckheim, who has agreed to lend the work to the Tate – but until details emerge of when it is to be displayed, Emin-Jopling watchers can delight in The Last Great Adventure is You, a new body of work opening at White Cube London on Wednesday October 8, running until Sunday November 16.
This is Emin’s first show at the London gallery in five years and over 80 new pieces (from £17,000) will be on display. The various mediums – and themes – will be familiar to Emin fans: bronze sculptures, gouaches, paintings, large-scale embroideries and neon works. Emin’s mastery with bronze shines though in figures such as the muscular Bird – a recurring animal motif in the artist’s work. “Birds are a spiritual resource that I never tire of,” says Emin. “Sometimes the bird is me, but this time it is carrying the crying figure, taking her away from a broken heart… It is someone looking out for me, from afar.”
Elsewhere, the tessellated, cave-like bronze Grotto serves as the home for a lone figure. Emin visited a number of grottos over the past few years, describing them as “so romantic and sexy, but also so female”. Indeed women, and the woman’s journey, is a key theme in this new body of work, as seen in the small-scale paintings (such as Good Red Love, pictured). Created through application, obliteration and layering over a period of several years, the pieces reflect the reviewing, revising and reconsidering inherent in Emin’s own journey. As ever, they are autobiographical and diaristic in nature – precisely what has made Emin one of the UK’s most popular, if polarising, artists.
Finally, three new neon works will also be on show – one of which is the text of the show’s title. Emin, who has been creating neons for 20 years, describes her new designs as “more subdued than usual… [but I] doubt I will ever stop”. For Emin fans, let’s hope not.