Tracey Emin, Sarah Lucas

The Last Night of the Shop 3.7.93


Not on display

Tracey Emin born 1963
Sarah Lucas born 1962
Fabric, safety pins and badges with printed papers on card
Support: 1515 × 1350 mm
Presented by the Factual Nonsense Trust and the family of Joshua Compston in memory of Joshua Compston 2000


Presented by the Factual Nonsense Trust and the family of Joshua Compston in memory of Joshua Compston 2000

'The Shop' was a project created by Emin and Lucas for marketing their work. For six months they rented a space, formerly a doctor's surgery, in Bethnal Green Road in east London, where they made and sold solo and collaborative work. On Emin's thirtieth birthday the Shop closed with an all-night party sponsored by Zeiss beer titled 'Fuckin' Fantastic at 30 and Just About Old Enough to do Whatever She Wants'. The Last Night of the Shop 3.7.93 thus commemorates both events. It is a khaki-green cotton corduroy wall-hanging, hemmed with large yellow stitches, on which the artists pinned over a hundred hand-made paper badges of the sort they had made and sold in the Shop. These were created from safety pins glued onto the back of items cut out from magazines and newspapers. They include photographs of film stars, pop stars, art stars and politicians, cartoons, fragments of newspaper headlines, a large picture of a plate of fish and chips and the work's title, written by Emin in her signature handwriting. The badges range in mood from comic through lewd to violent, illustrating themes common to the work of both artists at that time. Between 1990 and 1992 Lucas made such works as Sod You Gits 1991 (for a small editioned version see Tate P78205), enlarging double page spreads from tabloid newspapers to expose and ridicule misogynistic male attitudes perpetrated by the press. The use of imagery from popular culture, as well as typically British working-class food and such ridiculous portions of tabloid text as the words 'Stunner "gets annoyed by men"', 'KINKY', 'Marky Mark in Starkers Snaps Riddle' and 'STOP this TRUCKIN' TRAGEDY' (all of which appear on The Last Night of the Shop) are recognisable Lucas elements. During this period Emin was recovering from the 'emotional suiside [sic]' documented in her handwritten text-work, Tracey Emin CV 1995 (Tate T07632), during which she had destroyed all her artwork and left her studio. In November 1993 she went on to have her career-launching solo exhibition, titled My Major Retrospective, at White Cube gallery in London. She made her first appliquéed wall-hanging, Hotel International (private collection), in this year.

In October 1992, young entrepreneur Joshua Compston, an art history graduate from the Courtauld Institute in London, set up his gallery and project space, Factual Nonsense, in Shoreditch, London. Aiming to establish a cultural revolution of some kind, Compston intended his space to be 'a forum for all elements disenchanted with the laxity and ennui of current thinking' (quoted in Cooper, pp.39-42). Having already befriended many members of the group of young British artists (or yBas) whose work was just coming to prominence in London at that time, he met Emin and Lucas at the Shop. They quickly became friends and he acquired The Last Night of the Shop shortly after it was made. According to Jeremy Cooper, Compston's biographer, it was 'his favourite artwork' (Cooper, p.73) and he mounted it on the wall above his desk at Factual Nonsense, where it hung until his tragically premature death at the age of twenty-five in 1996. In the years after the Shop, Compston organised performative day events in Hoxton Square, Shoreditch, at which many subsequently famous young British artists created works. He encouraged Emin to make art out of her writing, including a page by her in his portfolio of fifteen prints, Other Men's Flowers, which he commissioned from his artist friends in 1994 (see Tate P11422-36). In tribute to Compston Emin has said: 'His dream was the coming together of all, a greater understanding: of life and art, with no boundaries, no hierarchies … Joshua created a place where it was possible for us to live out our fantasies, our dreams. He was art, and his ability was to make a place where everybody could be art.' (Quoted in Cooper, pp.10-12.)

After the closure of the Shop all remaining artworks were ritually cremated and placed by Emin in an old walnut box to create another memorial work titled The Shop 14 January to 3 July 1993 1993 (private collection). Emin opened The Tracey Emin Museum in an old shop on Waterloo Road, south London in 1995, occupying it until 1998.

Further reading:
Jeremy Cooper, no FuN without U: the art of Factual Nonsense, London 2000, pp.73-5, reproduced (colour) p.72, (detail) p.74
Lynn Barber, Gregor Muir, Robert Preece, 'Tracey Emin', Parkett, no.63 2001, pp.22-63
Sarah Lucas, exhibition catalogue, Museum Boymans-van Beuningen, Rotterdam 1996, pp.33-9

Elizabeth Manchester
February 2002

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Display caption

For six months Sarah Lucas and fellow artist Tracey Emin rented a retail space in east London where they made artworks, ranging from printed mugs to T-shirts with slogans, and put them on sale. This work commemorates the closing down of `The Shop`. The cardboard badges are typical of the simple, handmade objects they offered.

Gallery label, May 2002

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