Portrait Gallery buys Tracey Emin's Death Mask - with cash donation from artist


Artist Tracey Emin has helped the National Portrait Gallery purchase her Death Mask.

Death masks enjoyed a revival in the 19th century and were used to preserve the final expression and physiognomy of the famous, usually men.

Emin, 53, created her own death mask, as a "specimen" or "museum display" to "transform herself into an object of scrutiny for generations to come".

The gallery, in London's Trafalgar Square, has snapped up the work for £67,500, using a £37,500 donation from the artist and the White Cube gallery, and £30,000 from the Art Fund.

It said Death Mask, a bronze cast of the artist's face, was now at its "rightful home".

Associate curator Rab MacGibbon said: "Artists have frequently explored their mortality in self-portraits. Tracey Emin's Death Mask ... blurs the distinctions between life and death, art and identity."

Museum director Dr Nicholas Cullinan called the work "one of the most striking and singular portraits to join the Gallery's collection in recent years".

He added: "Drawing on the history of this very particular form of portraiture, Tracey Emin has taken the idea of the death mask to create an innovative work that challenges our perceptions of self-portraiture."

Created in 2002, Death Mask will feature in Life, Death And Memory, a display on the relationship between portraiture and mortality, which includes a work by artist and film-maker Sam Taylor-Johnson.

It includes a death mask of painter John Constable, the last portrait for which artist Derek Jarman sat, and a photograph of late New Labour strategist Philip Gould, standing on his burial plot just nine days before his death from cancer at the age of 61 in 2011.

Death Mask joins one other Emin work in the National Portrait Gallery collection, a photographic print Tracey Emin ('The Last Thing I said to you is don't leave me here. 1').

Emin is famous for her autobiographical works, such as her unmade bed, My Bed, and the tent Everyone I Have Ever Slept With.