Ev­ery­thing is ex­ter­nal to me,

Hong Kong Tatler - - Features -

and knowl­edge she had lived through, her artis­tic path to­wards greater and greater promi­nence. Her in­famy came with her 1998 in­stal­la­tion My Bed, which con­sisted of a very messy bed that de­fined the heartache of a bro­ken-down ro­mance, and which was short­listed for the Turner Prize. Al­though she did not win the prize, she be­came a cel­e­brated artist, with Charles Saatchi ini­tially ac­quir­ing the work, which was re­cently sold for £2.54 mil­lion at Christie’s, ac­quired by a Ger­man busi­ness­man who has since lent it to the Tate, where the bed now sleeps.

Tracey never looked back. Her de­vel­op­ment as an artist has risen in­ex­orably through a vast body of work in paint­ings, draw­ings, in­stal­la­tions, mono­prints, pho­tog­ra­phy, neon, fab­ric, sculp­ture, film and pub­li­ca­tion. In recog­ni­tion of her achieve­ments, Tracey was ap­pointed a Royal Aca­demi­cian and more—a pro­fes­sor of draw­ing at the Royal Academy of Arts. Then even the queen no­ticed and she was given the CBE gong, which is the usual pre­cur­sor to a dame­hood.

Mean­while, Tracey con­tin­ues to work and cre­ate. Her early ob­ses­sion with Egon Schiele brought her full cir­cle to an ex­hi­bi­tion she re­cently had in the Leopold Mu­seum in Vi­enna, jux­ta­pos­ing her works against his. And, of course, she has just had an ele­phan­tine ex­hi­bi­tion of new work at the White Cube in Lon­don.

We in Hong Kong will be treated, at Art Basel in March, to an ex­hi­bi­tion of her works rep­re­sented not by one, but two gal­leries. Through it, we will be able to wit­ness Tracey’s ab­so­lute pas­sion for art. “Ev­ery­thing is ex­ter­nal to me, ex­cept art, which is with me all the time. Even at my low­est and dark­est ebbs, art has saved me,” so Tracey told us boldly near the end of our con­ver­sa­tion at the China Ex­change.

I then talked to her about her im­pend­ing visit to Hong Kong. “So what has taken you all this time to mount an ex­hi­bi­tion in Hong Kong?” I asked. “It hasn’t been that long!” she protested. “Just that none of the op­por­tu­ni­ties pre­vi­ously had worked out. But this year, we are go­ing boldly for­ward and my show strad­dles Lehmann Maupin as well as White Cube. So it seems I am mak­ing up my time in Hong Kong, which is a city I love.”

“As you in­ti­mated,” I asked, “in your pre­vi­ous neon My Heart is with You Al­ways brazenly pro­jected onto the fa­cade of The Penin­sula in 2014?”

“Yer, I like your wa­ter, your his­tory and your ro­mance. It’s a good place to fall in love.”

So we now also know Tracey al­ways falls in love, and al­ways wants to fall in love. In her big ex­hi­bi­tion in Hong Kong dur­ing Art Basel, all of us liv­ing in her per­ceived wa­ter and his­tory and ro­mance will, I hope, all fall in love. But we need to be care­ful, I sus­pect, for the name of her ex­hi­bi­tion is I Cried Be­cause I Love You, and that must mean there is a price for love. “Do you cry when you are in love, Tracey?” “I do cry, be­cause I love some­one.” At this point, I felt the vi­bra­tions of TS Eliot’s The Love Song of J Al­fred Prufrock, which some­how re­lates to me my feel­ings for Tracey’s work: “Let us go then, you and I, / When the evening is spread out against the sky / Like a pa­tient etherised upon a ta­ble; / Let us go, through cer­tain half-de­serted streets, / The mut­ter­ing re­treats / Of rest­less night in one-night cheap ho­tels / And saw­dust restau­rants with oys­ter-shells: / Streets that fol­low like a te­dious ar­gu­ment / Of in­sid­i­ous in­tent / To lead you to an over­whelm­ing ques­tion … / Oh, do not ask, ‘ What is it?’ / Let us go and make our visit.”

Yes, let us all go then and make our visit to Tracey’s show, and dis­cover her ar­gu­ments and love: “In the room the women come and go / Talk­ing of Michelan­gelo.”

I Cried Be­cause I Love You is at Lehmann Maupin and White Cube from March 21 to May 21.

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