Tracey Emin: 'My friend Gregor and I fell out when I miaowed during his inaugural speech'

My Life In A Column

Share
Related Topics

So I managed to survive another Christmas and another new year. But strangely, only just. All the dread and the anxiety that I had about being alone swiftly disappeared for a number of different reasons.

A few days before Christmas I was struck down by some mystery ailment. It was a cross between the worst cystitis in the world and the whole lower half of my body feeling like it was going to prolapse. It came in spasms and waves of inordinate amounts of pain that reduced my body to a human bellows.

I had gone to a lot of trouble to make my local church look more Christmassy. The minister had given me permission to enhance and grace our beautiful Hawksmoor-designed Christchurch Spitalfields with candelabras and holly wreaths. The plan was to make everything atmospheric. I was very excited, as I had invited a number of friends over for Christmas Eve drinks. I was going to light fires and make soup and take everyone to the church for a candlelit midnight mass.

I woke up at 9pm with my doorbell ringing. I had gone to bed in the afternoon doubled up in pain and now I had to put on a brave face and bring out the Christmas spirit, which I did, I did very well. Everything looked festive and warm and cosy. The fires were burning and there was something innocent, almost childlike, in the air. That was from the outside. From the inside I was doubled up in pain and desperate for the vicar's last word, desperately waiting for everyone to leave so I could just curl up in bed and get on with myself.

Christmas Day I didn't wake up lonely. I woke up in slightly less pain. I made myself egg and bacon and took it back up to bed, turned on Radio 3 and nestled down to the soothing waves of Bach and comforting sips of Redbush tea. Docket snuggled up to me as I opened up the first page of Gregor Muir's book: Lucky Kunst: The Rise and Fall of Young British Art which covers the period from 1990 to 2000.

Six hours later I was feverishly turning page after page after page, stamping mental Post-it notes all the way across the book. My mind had been pulled back into an almost black and white art world of Britain, of fish and chip papers, roll-up cigarettes, carpeted galleries with hessian wallpaper and tiny little glasses of white, acidic wine; the art world, but not as we know it now.

Riding around London on my bike – a darkened, dampened, derelict Brick Lane, a copy of Time Out in my bag with little rings marked over every single possible contemporary art space I could visit. The early Nineties, everybody looking for something that wasn't there yet. Gregor's book describes those defining moments so well. I have been friends with Gregor for years, since 1991. I don't call him Gregor, I call him Boom Vision. Originally it came from Gregor Muir, as in Muirangi Boom, as in the song, as in Boom vision.

Even all those years ago, I was insightful enough to know that Gregor could see things that other people couldn't see. And even if they could see them, Gregor was the person taking the time to note them down. Gregor and I have only fallen out big time once during our friendship and that's when I drunkenly miaowed too loudly and too much during his inaugural speech as director of Hauser & Wirth gallery, at the opening of a Louise Bourgeois exhibition. My friend Boomer really has gone a long way.

But what's really good about going a long way is when you come back to those people you love. And all during Christmas and New Year, as I turned those pages, I was filled with the most amazing memories, and to Gregor's credit, his fantastic accuracy. Without wanting to make the book sound too pompous, I think that Gregor's anecdotal journey of 10 years in the British art world is a fantastic historical document. It explains really clearly and accurately what was happening at the time because Gregor was actually there. He's not an art historian looking back on events in art; he's recounting what he has actually witnessed. He also puts the YBAs into a very good global context, not just the media phenomenon but also the art that was actually being made at the time. My Christmas was spent full of melancholy, with lots of laughter and it really did help to take away some of the pain.

I've just come out of hospital after having keyhole surgery. I'm unable to move and I'm on some mind-blowing painkillers. My mental state is either high or asleep. I've emailed Gregor a few times to say, "Come on, hurry up, write another book." I also sent him a quote from Henry Miller, which goes something like this: "There were no appointments, no invitations, no parties to go to. There was no one to impress, we were young and free."

Here's one of Gregor's favourite extracts:

"Early one afternoon, just after the art fair opened its doors to the public, I spied Jay Jopling from afar walking down the central aisle with something slung over his shoulder. This something turned out to be Tracey Emin, who was so hung over she could hardly walk. As they got closer, Emin's arms started to flail and Jay put her down on the floor. On hands and knees, she proceeded to throw up into a corporate water feature directly opposite the Artforum stand, where a woman looked on in horror."

'Lucky Kunst: The Rise and Fall of Young British Art' is published by Aurum Press on 26 January at £14.99. Available at all good bookshops

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Austen Lloyd: Private Client Solicitor - Oxford

Excellent Salary : Austen Lloyd: OXFORD - REGIONAL FIRM - An excellent opportu...

Austen Lloyd: Clinical Negligence Associate / Partner - Bristol

Super Package: Austen Lloyd: BRISTOL - SENIOR CLINICAL NEGLIGENCE - An outstan...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Consultant - Solar Energy - OTE £50,000

£15000 - £50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Fantastic opportunities are ava...

Recruitment Genius: Compute Engineer

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Compute Engineer is required to join a globa...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Syrian refugee 'Nora' with her two month-old daughter. She was one of the first Syrians to come to the UK when the Government agreed to resettle 100 people from the country  

Open letter to David Cameron on Syrian refugees: 'Several hundred people' isn't good enough

Independent Voices
Amjad Bashir said Ukip had become a 'party of ruthless self-interest'  

Could Ukip turncoat Amjad Bashir be the Churchill of his day?

Matthew Norman
Syria crisis: Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more refugees as one young mother tells of torture by Assad regime

Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more Syrian refugees

One young mother tells of torture by Assad regime
The enemy within: People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back – with promising results

The enemy within

People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back
'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

Survivors of the Nazi concentration camp remember its horror, 70 years on
Autumn/winter menswear 2015: The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore

Autumn/winter menswear 2015

The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore
'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

Army general planning to come out
Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

What the six wise men told Tony Blair

Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

25 years of The Independent on Sunday

The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

Homeless Veterans appeal

As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

Smash hit go under the hammer

It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy
Geeks who rocked the world: Documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry

The geeks who rocked the world

A new documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
Belle & Sebastian interview: Stuart Murdoch reveals how the band is taking a new direction

Belle & Sebastian is taking a new direction

Twenty years ago, Belle & Sebastian was a fey indie band from Glasgow. It still is – except today, as prime mover Stuart Murdoch admits, it has a global cult following, from Hollywood to South Korea
America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

These days in the US things are pretty much stuck where they are, both in politics and society at large, says Rupert Cornwell
A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A veteran of the Fifties campaigns is inspiring a new generation of activists
Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

A C Benson called him 'a horrid little fellow', George Orwell would have shot him, but what a giant he seems now, says DJ Taylor
Growing mussels: Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project

Growing mussels

Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project