Newly Appointed British Museum Trustee Tracey Emin Is Making History

The renowned confessional artist has leveraged her fame to support art institutions and cultural initiatives in recent years.

Tracey Emin, the English confessional artist renowned for her unapologetically autobiographical installations, prints and neon signs, is the newest trustee at the British Museum. While Emin’s work has been a part of the London institution for years, she will now have a say in the management of the museum’s vast holdings.

Woman in suit stands in large lobby with pink neon sign behind her
Tracey Emin’s will replace Grayson Perry as the British Museum trustee nominated by the Royal Academy. Tim P. Whitby/Getty Images for HS1 St Pancras

“It’s one of my favorite museums in the entire world,” said Emin of the British Museum, which has the world’s largest collection of historical, cultural and artistic artifacts, in a statement. “I love everything Egyptian.”

The visual artist’s appointment to the institution’s board will make her the first woman trustee nominated by the Royal Academy in the British Museum’s 270-year history, according to George Osborne, chair of the museum’s trustees. “She is one of Britain’s greatest artists,” he said yesterday (Nov. 15) at the museum’s annual trustees’ dinner. Royal Academician trustees, a group that has included contemporary artist Grayson Perry and sculptor Antony Gormley, are practicing artists and architects who are elected by the Royal Academy of Arts, a London-based art institution known for its prestigious exhibitions and educational programs.

SEE ALSO: Tracey Emin on How Illness Has Made Her Redefine Love and Her Legacy

Emin became a Royal Academician in 2007, the same year she represented Great Britain at the Venice Biennale. Raised in the seaside town of Margate, she studied at the Maidstone College of Art and Royal College of Art before rising to prominence as a member of the Young British Artists movement, a group of artists who incorporated found objects, experimentation and shock tactics into their practice. Emin became especially known in the 1990s for autobiographical installations like Everyone I Have Ever Slept With 1963-1995, a tent embroidered with the names of her lovers, and My Bed, which displayed her unmade and disheveled bed.

This isn’t the first time Emin has made history—in 2011, she and artist Fiona Rae were appointed professors at the Royal Academy for Arts, making them the first woman teachers in its history. Two years later, she was awarded the honor of Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire for her contributions to the visual arts.

Tracey Emin’s recent involvement in institutional initiatives

Earlier this year, Emin was tapped to select an artist for a solo presentation at the 20th anniversary of Frieze London. And last month she unveiled Lovers Grave, a solo show at White Cube’s Upper East Side outpost. But despite her ongoing art production, in recent years the artist has funneled more attention into the institutions fostering and presenting artwork.

In June, she unveiled three bronze doors she created free of cost for London’s reopened National Portrait Gallery. However, her most powerful efforts have centered upon her hometown of Margate, where Emin purchased a printing plant in 2017 to utilize as a studio and living quarters. The space will reportedly be used as a public museum after her death.

Five years later, Emin announced her plans to turn a vacant Margate bathhouse and mortuary into an art school with thirty studios and an accompanying artist residency program. Known as TKE Studios and TEAR respectively, the initiatives aim to revitalize the town through the support of emerging artists. They launched earlier this year with ten inaugural participants from around the globe.

Newly Appointed British Museum Trustee Tracey Emin Is Making History