Tracey Emin

Tracey Emin says Brexit ‘makes no sense culturally’ as her first show opens in Brussels

The British artist is showing new work at Xavier Hufkens gallery after a year’s sabbatical

Tracey Emin All I want is you (2016) Stéphane Aboudaram. Courtesy of the artist and Xavier Hufkens, Brussels

Tracey Emin has made no secret of her deep aversion to Brexit, describing leaving the European Union as “absolute insanity” and “a scandal”. Now, on the eve of her first show in Brussels, Emin has once again spoken out against the referendum. “It deeply saddens me, Brexit makes no sense culturally for anybody,” she tells The Art Newspaper.

Emin’s first exhibition in the de facto capital of Europe is also her first at Xavier Hufkens gallery. The Brussels dealer, who has begun to represent Emin having worked with her for almost three years, is showing around 90 works by the former YBA across both of his Brussels spaces.

The Memory of your Touch, as the exhibition is called (a reference to a line in D.H. Lawrence’s 1928 novel Lady Chatterley’s Lover), consists of mostly fresh material. Emin describes the new work as “somehow different” after taking a year’s sabbatical, during which time she also parted with her New York gallery, Lehmann Maupin, after nearly two decades.

Among the new works is a video–Emin’s first in five years–titled You Made Me Feel Like This. In it, Emin appears alone in an 18th-century house in Spitalfields, East London, where she is writing a letter to a lost love. The video alludes to Emin’s personal heartache, as well as broader themes of loss and eradication.

Emin has also been working on a series of new large-scale paintings and bronzes, which hint at an inability to recall the feeling of sexual intimacy. “A lot of my work has become more abstract, more vague, and that’s because the memory of what it feels like to be entwined with someone is blurry,” Emin has previously said. Meanwhile, works such as I waited and sat by your side and GONE reflect another type of loss–that of bereavement.

Speaking from Brussels ahead of the opening on 8 September, Emin says she has made the most of her stay in the city by visiting the European Parliament and buying lots of souvenirs, including a badge of the British and European flags crossed in unity, which she has proudly pinned on her lapel.

“I'm really excited about showing in Brussels as it is steeped in art history,” she says. “Contemporary art is really appreciated in Belgium. I am so happy with [the decision to exhibit with Hufkens], I love the gallery space and the context my work is being shown in.” The Memory of your Touch runs until 21 October.