Press Release

Tracey Emin and William Blake in Focus

Press release introducing Tate Liverpool's display Tracey Emin and William Blake in Focus

Tracey Emin and William Blake in Focus
Tate Liverpool
16 September 2016 to 3 September 2017

This autumn Tate Liverpool focuses on the work of Tracey Emin (b. 1963) and William Blake (1757-1827) to reveal surprising links between the two artists. The free display juxtaposes important works from the Tate collection, demonstrating a shared concern with spirituality, birth and death in both artists’ work.

At the heart of the display is one of Britain’s most renowned artworks of the past 20 years, Tracey Emin’s My Bed 1998. This will be the first time My Bed has been displayed in the north of England.

Featuring Emin’s own bed with stained sheets, personal objects and detritus, it offers an unflinching self-portrait in which the artist herself is absent. Combining public with domestic realms, this iconic work expresses ideas of containment and isolation while asserting the artist’s thematic preoccupations, including birth, death, dreams and sex.

My Bed, along with drawings by Emin from the Tate collection, will be presented alongside those of the visionary British poet and artist, William Blake. Presented in the context of Emin’s empty bed, and symbolising the absent figure, works include Pity c.1795 and The Crucifixion: ‘Behold Thy Mother’ c.1805 and other figurative works.

Blake stood against the hypocrisies of his age and was vocal in his support of liberalism, sexual freedoms and above all advocated for unrestrained imaginative freedom of expression. The new display affirms Blake’s Romantic idea of artistic authenticity through existential pain and the possibility of spiritual rebirth through art shared in the work of Tracey Emin.

Following the display of My Bed 1998 at Tate Liverpool, the work will be shown at Turner Contemporary in Margate, Emin’s home town. This will provide a unique opportunity for audiences across the UK to see one of the most defining works of British art in recent years. The Duerckheim Collection acquired the work in early July 2014 and it is now on loan to Tate for 10 years.

Tracey Emin and William Blake in Focus is curated by Darren Pih, Exhibitions & Displays Curator, Tate Liverpool.

Editor notes

Tracey Emin biography
Emin was born in London in 1963 and studied at Maidstone College of Art and the Royal College of Art, London. Associated with a generation of celebrated British artists who emerged in the late 1980s, Emin is known for making works that convey experiences and events from her own life by using a range of media, from needlework and drawing, to sculpture, writing and installation. Her artwork is exhibited all over the world but is also displayed more locally and her neon work For You 2008 and bird sculpture Roman Standard 2008 can both be seen at Liverpool’s Anglican Cathedral.

William Blake biography
William Blake was an artist, poet, radical thinker and visionary, working at a time of great social and political change. He was born in Soho and spent most of his life in London, where the city and its people inspired his fantastic, and at times nightmarish, visions. The gift and bequest of more than twenty of Blake’s works by the writer and artist W. Graham Robertson (1866–1948) together with many other individual purchases and gifts means that Tate holds one of the world’s most important collections of Blake.

Count Christian Duerckheim
Count Christian Duerckheim (b Bautzen, Germany 1944) began to actively collect in the 1960s, making the focus of his collection contemporary art from the 1970s to the present day. Now widely considered to be one of the most ambitious collections of international contemporary art, it includes historically important examples of works by a wide-ranging group of British and international contemporaries. The recent exhibition Germany Divided: Baselitz and His Generation at the British Museum was a celebration of Count Duerckheim’s great benefaction to Britain and included work by Georg Baselitz, Gerhard Richter, Sigmar Polke, AR Penck, Blinky Palermo and Markus Lüpertz, chronicling a fertile period in post-war Germany. In addition to lending very generously from his collection for the exhibition, over 30 works, including 17 by Georg Baselitz, have remained at the British Museum and thereby transformed its collection of German post-war graphic art. Today Count Duerckheim remains an active collector while overseeing his business interests.