For a year during treatment for bladder cancer, where I thought she was going to die, Tracy Amen can not paint.
Then, in a release of energy and passion, she created Like a Blood Cloud, a very intimate representation of her experiences.
On Thursday, she said the painting was about healing. “I loved it and thought I’d keep it forever.”
But Emin, who made her name as one of the Young British Artists in the 1980s and is now a Royal Academy, is selling the work to raise funds for her new art school and the Artists Center in Margate.
Christie’s, the auction house handling the sale next month, estimates it will hit £700,000, which would add to the £2m Emin has already spent on buying and renovating a former Edwardian bath, mortuary and nursery in Kent A seaside town I grew up in.
Its goal is to sponsor emerging and aspiring artists. “Success as an artist is a rarity – especially for a woman, especially for someone from my background. All the odds were stacked against me,” she told The Guardian.
“But now I have everything I need and want, and I want to invest in art and education and in Margate.”
The new TKE Studios (named after Tracey Karima Emin) will provide workspace for 15 artists, including painters, potters, and sculptors. “They all have interesting stories and backgrounds,” Amin said.
“Most artists in big cities are being chased by developers. Margit welcomes artists and their creative energy.”
Artists will pay a modest rent for the generous, light-filled studios, which will include heating and Wi-Fi and will be open 24 hours a day.
The space will include a library selling “unusual books you usually have to order”, and space for exhibitions and events. “We will have talks, lectures and film screenings,” Amin said.
“It will be a focus. Art can be very isolated when you work alone. Lots of people work in studios for years without talking to anyone at all. Here people will exchange ideas and discuss their work.”
In January, up to 20 aspiring artists will join the Emin Artists Residency Scheme for an 18-month course, consisting of a school year and six months of show preparation. Online applications open next week.
“The people who come to teach are exceptional,” she said. They include Jake Chapman, who will lecture on art and politics, Rachel Whitread and Vivienne Westwood, and art critic for The Guardian, Jonathan Jones. Instead of fees, they will be rewarded with a withdrawal by Emin.
Students will also attend talks by accountants, photo makers, and curators. “No one will succeed without practical advice,” Amin said.
There will be no fees for students for tuition or studio space, but they will have to fund their living expenses. “But being an art student at Margate is a lot cheaper than it is in London,” Emin said.
“When I was sick, and thought I was going to die, I thought: Why am I here, why all this? If someone is here as an artist, then I have done my job.”
Emin returned to live in Margate in 2017 and works from her own studios near TKE Studios. “I went back to Margate as a different person, I came back to another Margate. Everyone here gives me space, there is nothing pretentious here.”
The city has seen a revival in recent years, with an influx of people relocating from London in search of cheaper properties and a more relaxed lifestyle. The Turner Gallery of Contemporary Art facing the sea opened in 2011, and its collection of small galleries, antique shops, boutique hotels, cafes and trendy restaurants has attracted visitors and new residents.
Last month, Emin was named an honorary freestyle in the city in recognition of her work as an artist and her investment in Margate.
I underwent surgery for bladder cancer in 2020, which included removal of the bladder, uterus, fallopian tubes, ovaries, part of the colon, urethra, and part of the vagina. It was all given after a recent scan.