What Tracey did when she was 13

Click to follow
The Independent Online
IT HAS to be the ultimate artistic conceit - a museum run by a living artist, and totally dedicated to herself. Tracey Emin, a member of British art's new self-possessed brat-pack, has renovated an old mini- cab office in south London as a high-street monument to her life.

Wedged between a unisex hairdressing salon and a greasy- spoon cafe, the shopfront has a pink neon sign declaring it to be the Tracey Emin Museum. Passers-by stare at whitewashed gallery walls through the plate glass. But what makes this different from any other new gallery is that it will slowly be filled with sketches, notes, photographs, newspaper cuttings and other memorabilia of Emin's childhood and private life.

For the opening on Thursday, there was only a home movie playing in the corner and monoprints on the wall (several featuring the artist on her back with legs splayed open), under the title What Made Me What I Am. In time they will be joined by more works and a sheet across which Emin will write her intimate diary of the next year. She will read her own short stories, while the public sits on cushions and wears silk slippers she has made.

"In the Eighties I wouldn't have been able to get an exhibition," she said. "Nobody took me seriously." Now she is a feted part of the new gang of thirtysomething artists, whose collective name has become Britpop and whose most famous member is Damien Hirst. Emin's work was exhibited alongside Hirst's and that of his fellow Turner Prize winner Rachel Whiteread as part of an exhibition in Minnesota that took America by storm earlier this year. Her contribution was a tent embroidered with names, entitled Everybody I've Ever Slept With: 1963-1995.

"They are all control freaks," said the artist Celia Lyttelton of the Britpoppers. "They have psychological power over each other and an infallible faith in what they are doing."

So Emin did not find it too difficult to raise the money she needed to refurbish the building - she estimates it will cost pounds 15,000 to run for a year. The project has the support of the art dealer Jay Jopling, who gave Emin her first show at his White Cube gallery in 1993, and took her to America. As part of an art fair in New York she sat in a hotel bed wearing a neglige. The bedspread sold for pounds 2,500.

"It's a fashionable thing," she admits. "If it's my wave, then let me surf it." The museum is an extension of the attitude that made her famous, a passion for putting her life on display.

But who cares about the ephemera of a 32-year-old's life? "It opens doors to other people's experiences," Emin said. "It is a two-way exchange. All this work is about being 13, having sex, leaving school, sleeping with different people and then, at 15, deciding enough is enough. There are a lot of women out there who have these experiences but they're going around thinking they're a teenage slut or something. That's not the case. Hopefully a dialogue will happen between us."