Tracey Emin has announced the next step in her plan to transform Margate, the English seaside town where she grew up, into an “artist’s haven”. Named TKE Studios — after the artist’s full name, Tracey Karima Emin — the project takes the form of her very own art school, with an accompanying artist’s residency programme.
As revealed by Emin in an interview for the Times, the art school will be housed at a site located five minutes from her own studio (which she plans to turn into a museum for her own work after her death). The building itself is made up of a former bathhouse and a mortuary, the latter of which will be turned into a “mini museum”.
The rest will be made into a set of 30 studios, to house artists at different stages of their careers. “People will have to apply, and there’ll be really strict rules,” Emin explains.
Some of the strict rules proposed by the iconic enfant terrible of the YBAs? “No subletting, no smoking, no loud music. And if people don’t want to do the rules then they won’t have a studio there.”
On a more egalitarian note, Emin continues: “The other thing, because the rents are going to be so low, I’m not having people having part-time jobs and then never coming in. So, I’m setting it up so they. . . will have time to work and paint.”
Students will also be encouraged to exhibit their work locally on a regular basis, as part of their education. “Every now and again someone has to put their work up in the corridor and the others come round and criticise it,” she adds. “So there’s like this constant intellectual rigour. People can’t just be passive.”
The artist’s residency scheme devised by Emin is set to be launched somewhere else in the town, inviting artists to visit for three or four months in the hopes that they will want to stick around: “So it’s organically making the place right for the right people.”
Referencing the cancer diagnosis that she received in 2020 — and how the invasive treatment has altered her outlook on life — Emin suggests that her Margate plans have arisen from a new sense of purpose, with one eye on the distant future.
“With Margate now, especially after the cancer and everything, it’s all making sense what I’m doing,” she says. “I am sort of helping. I am making an artist’s haven.”