Coinciding with Art Basel in Miami Beach, the Museum of Contemporary Art, North Miami opens “Tracey Emin: Angel Without You”, Emin’s first solo show at an American museum, which is also the first-ever exhibition to focus on her crucial body of works in neon. The extensive show, featuring over 60 works by Emin from the past two decades, is appropriately held at MOCA North Miami, as it was the first American museum to purchase one of her works when it acquired the seminal film Why I Never Became a Dancer in 1998. We caught up with acclaimed curator Bonnie Clearwater for her insights on the exhibition—which she describes as “a revelation”—her final show at the museum.
Clearwater reveals that the show’s title refers to “a monumental piece [Emin] is creating especially for MOCA’s courtyard.” This work, like her other confessional neon phrases, began with an “internal dialogue.” Existing “as relics that carry their own history,” Clearwater explains that the neon works are each drawn from Emin’s personal history.
Revelatory to Clearwater was Emin’s fascination with mystical practices of Islamic Sufism and Rumi, a 13th century Persian poet. She reveals that Emin wrote her master’s thesis on the subject at the Royal College of Art, and that “When Emin is trying to discover if love exists, she is aspiring to the divine love in Rumi’s poems.”
The first neon was Emin’s iconic The Tracey Emin Museum, which opens the show, and was created in 1995, the same year as her famous tent Everyone I Ever Slept With. Clearwater explains that Emin’s experimentation with neon “marks a transition in her career.” She continues: “Rather than the confessional messages of her earlier work, the neons are at once more cryptic and universal as they use the second person pronoun instead of referencing specific names. They are like love letters left for a loved one to read.”
“Tracey Emin: Angel Without You” on view at MOCA North Miami, Dec. 4–Mar. 9, 2014.
Explore “Tracey Emin: Angel Without You” on Artsy.