Tracey Emin told of her delight at being chosen to represent the cream of the UK art scene at one of the world's most important art events yesterday. Emin, 43, will be the British representative at the Venice Biennale, the two-yearly art competition which will next take place in 2007.
Speaking exclusively to The Independent on Sunday while on holiday, the artist revealed that she will begin planning her work immediately.
"Venice is, for me, the best news. I'm giving it all a great deal of thought," she said. "I'm really looking forward to it. It's going to be absolutely brilliant. I'm on holiday at the moment but I am going to start on it as soon as I get back."
Emin, a columnist for The Independent, is only the second woman to mount a solo show for Britain at Venice since the event began. The other was Rachel Whiteread a decade ago.
Among Ms Emin's best-known works are My Bed, her infamous unmade bed surrounded by empty bottles, stubbed-out cigarettes and dozens of other bits of rubbish, which she exhibited at Tate Britain when nominated in 1999 for the Turner Prize. Another infamous work was her 1995 exhibit Everyone I Have Ever Slept With, a tent embroidered with the names of people with whom she had shared a bed. Her creations have used photographs, neon lights and, in 1994, she branched out into film direction with her first movie, Top Spot. However, its graphic depiction of a suicide attempt saw her at loggerheads with film censors who felt it was unsuitable for the younger audience to which the artist wanted to appeal.
The Biennale sees 90 countries fielding their most prominent artists in the hope of landing the Golden Lion prize, with France the current holder. It is also a huge convention for the international scene where decision-makers from the world of the arts view anddebate cutting-edge work.
In previous years, the likes of Damien Hirst and Chris Ofili have been chosen for the Biennale. Last year it was the turn of the avant-gardists Gilbert and George, who unveiled a series of works based around images of the leaves from ginkgo biloba trees.
Karen Wright, the editor-at-large of Modern Painters magazine, said that she was impressed by the British Council's decision.
"I was really pleased to hear that she has got the pavilion," she said. "I think she's a very good representative - she's feisty, interesting and, what's more, she's a woman. She's not middle of the road, she takes chances, and I think that's what is needed."
The British Council praised Emin's ability to work in different formats: "Using a wide variety of media ... Emin both pricks pretensions and tells a story with a unique and increasingly compelling voice."
Andrea Rose, the British Council's director of visual arts, who commissions the representative for the British pavilion at the Biennale, said: "She has a very distinctive style."
But not everyone was delighted. Charles Thomson, the co-founder of the anti-conceptual art group the Stuckists, was dismissive of her inclusion, saying that it was time for painting to return to prominence in the art world. "People want something silly and Tracey does it effortlessly," he said. "It was predictable for Tracey to be chosen. Everybody takes their turn in that circuit. There's the Turner Prize, there's the Biennale, there's being a trustee at the Tate and having an exhibition there - they all take turns and it's hers for the Biennale."
Mr Thomson sought to dismiss the whole school of conceptual art. "We said seven years ago that painting is the way forward and people are now realising that," he said.
"You never know, she might even put some paintings in for the Biennale - but they will be embarrassing. There is so little thought put into conceptual art it should be called concept-less."Reuse content