Everyone I Have Ever Slept With 1963–1995

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Everyone I Have Ever Slept With 1963–1995 by Tracey Emin (1995). An exterior view of the work.

Everyone I Have Ever Slept With 1963–1995 (1995), also known as "The Tent",[1] was an artwork created by Tracey Emin RA (born 3 July 1963), an English artist and a leading member of the group known as Britartists or YBAs (Young British Artists). The work was a tent with the appliquéd names of, literally, everyone she had ever slept with, but not necessarily in the sexual sense. It achieved iconic status,[1] was owned by Charles Saatchi, and was destroyed in the 2004 Momart London warehouse fire. She has refused to recreate it.

History[edit]

Tracey Emin calls Everyone I Have Ever Slept With 1963–1995 "my tent"[2] or "the tent"[3] and considers it to be one of the two "seminal pieces" she has created (the other being My Bed);[2] she has described both pieces as "seminal, fantastic and amazing work".[3]

Everyone I Have Ever Slept With 1963–1995 was a tent appliquéd with 102 names of the people she had slept with up to the time of its creation in 1995.[2] The title is often misinterpreted as a euphemism indicating sexual partners and the work termed "a list of all the people that Emin has ever had sex with", but is in fact intended more inclusively:[1]

Some I'd had a shag with in bed or against a wall some I had just slept with, like my grandma. I used to lay in her bed and hold her hand. We used to listen to the radio together and nod off to sleep. You don't do that with someone you don't love and don't care about.[2]
Everyone I Have Ever Slept With 1963–1995 by Tracey Emin (1995). An interior view of the work.

The names include family, friends, drinking partners, lovers and even two numbered foetuses.[1] The name of former boyfriend, Billy Childish, could be seen prominently through the tent opening. The tent was square and coloured blue; its shape was reminiscent of the Margate Shell Grotto, with which Emin was very familiar from childhood; inside on the floor of the tent was the text, "With myself, always myself, never forgetting".[4]

The work was created during a relationship she had in the mid-1990s with Carl Freedman, who had been an early friend of, and collaborator with, Damien Hirst and who had co-curated seminal Britart shows, such as Modern Medicine and Gambler. In 1995 Freedman curated the show Minky Manky at the South London Gallery, where the tent was first shown. At that time Emin had not achieved the level of fame which she was to later, and was mainly known in art circles; she was fortunate to be able to exhibit alongside much better-known artists such as Damien Hirst, Gilbert and George and Sarah Lucas.[1] Emin described the genesis of the work, which turned out unexpectedly to be the highlight of the show:[1]

At that time Sarah (Lucas) was quite famous, but I wasn’t at all. Carl said to me that I should make some big work as he thought the small-scale stuff I was doing at the time wouldn’t stand up well. I was furious. Making that work was my way at getting back at him. One review was really funny, the journalist had written something like 'She's slept with everyone – even the curator'![5]

At that time Emin refused to sell work directly to Charles Saatchi because she disapproved of his advertising work for Margaret Thatcher, whom she accused of "crimes against humanity".[6] Instead Saatchi bought it on the secondary market from a private dealer, Eric Franck, at a premium price of £40,000 – Emin had sold it originally for £12,000.[6] She reconciled with Saatchi in 1999.[7] Art world gossip in 2001 was that Saatchi had been offered £300,000 for it; Emin's comment on this was, "He won't re-sell, but the art is his. He can do what he likes with it."[6]

While the tent was installed at Charles Saatchi's home in 2002, Emin remarked,

It looks brilliant. He’s got My Bed in the silver room, surrounded by silver goblets, silver trays and silver plates. It’s on a beautiful Persian rug. The whole thing looks totally baroque and mad.[8]

Saatchi exhibited the tent in the 1997 Sensation exhibition held at the Royal Academy in London; public outrage was centred on Marcus Harvey's portrait of Myra Hindley and, at the later staging of the exhibition at the Brooklyn Museum of Art in New York, on Chris Ofili's The Holy Virgin Mary with collaged pornographic images.[9]

Momart fire[edit]

In 2004, the tent was destroyed in a fire at the East London Momart warehouse, along with two of Emin's other works and some 100 more from Saatchi's collection, including works by Damien Hirst, Jake and Dinos Chapman and Martin Maloney.[10] Many other works were also lost, including major pieces by Patrick Heron and William Redgrave.[11]

The public and media reaction was not one of sympathy but of mockery and scorn,[12] focusing on the YBAs, Damien Hirst, the Chapman Brothers, and Emin, with particular attention to her tent.[13] Tabloid papers, The Sun and the Daily Mail, both stated they had already created their own replacement tents, and the latter's Godfrey Barker asked, "Didn't millions cheer as this 'rubbish' went up in flames?"[13] The same implication gained applause on BBC Radio 4's Any Questions?; Hugh Rifkind in The Times thought similarly to The Independent's Tom Lubbock, who wrote:

"It's odd to hear talk about irreplaceable losses. Really? You'd have thought that, with the will and the funding, many of these works were perfectly replaceable. It wouldn't be very hard for Tracey Emin to re-stitch the names of Every One I Have Ever Slept With on to a little tent (it might need some updating since 1995.)"[13]

Emin took a phlegmatic view of her work's destruction, saying, "The news comes between Iraqi weddings being bombed and people dying in the Dominican Republic in flash floods, so we have to get it into perspective."[14] She was, though, upset at the public reaction to the fire, pointing both to lack of cultural understanding — "The majority of the British public have no regard or no respect to what me and my peers do, to the point that they laugh at a disaster like a fire." — and to lack of compassion — "It is just not fair and it's not funny and it's not polite and it's bad manners. I would never laugh at a disaster like that – I just have some empathy and sympathy with people's loss."[12][15]

She also stated that she could not remake the tent, because "I had the inclination and inspiration 10 years ago to make that, I don't have that inspiration and inclination now ... My work is very personal, which people know, so I can't create that emotion again – it's impossible."[15] At her 2008 Edinburgh retrospective show, she said that after the fire she had been offered £1 million (the amount of the insurance payment) by the Saatchi Gallery to remake the tent, but that, although she had recreated some small pieces for the retrospective, to have remade the tent "would just be silly".[3]

In May 2009, Dinos Chapman said that he and his brother Jake recreated the tent. Both Emin and the Chapmans are represented by White Cube gallery in London. In The Independent, Jerome Taylor questioned whether this was a publicity stunt.[16]

Burn Baby Burn[edit]

In collaboration with Uri Geller, artist Stuart Semple collected remains from the Momart fire site and packaged them in 8 plastic boxes under the title Burn Baby Burn; the boxes had slogans in pink lettering, including "RIP YBA" which referred to the Young British Artists amongst whom Emin is classified.[17] Semple stated that among the debris collected there were fragments of Emin's tent. The assemblage was offered to, but rejected by, the Tate gallery.[17]

See also[edit]

Footnotes[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d e f Brown, p.83.
  2. ^ a b c d Didcock.
  3. ^ a b c Wade.
  4. ^ Brown, p.84.
  5. ^ Barker.
  6. ^ a b c Gleadell.
  7. ^ SHOWstudio
  8. ^ Preece.
  9. ^ Barnes.
  10. ^ BBC: "Fire devastates Saatchi artworks.
  11. ^ Meek: "Art into ashes".
  12. ^ a b Su and Mallinder.
  13. ^ a b c Meek: "Art into ashes, part 2".
  14. ^ The Guardian: "26.05.2004: Art fire".
  15. ^ a b BBC News: "Emin anger over public 'sniggers'"
  16. ^ Taylor.
  17. ^ a b Edwardes.

References[edit]