Tracey Emin says No 10 needs more ‘compassion’ after demanding artwork removal

Tracey Emin has said the Government needs more “compassion” rather than the “party atmosphere” created by her neon artwork More Passion.

The Turner Prize-nominated artist, 58, on Wednesday demanded Number 10 take down the piece, which hangs in the residence, over what she described as “shameful” reports of parties during lockdown.

She told BBC Radio 4’s Woman’s Hour she objected to the fluorescent lighting, which is often associated with a festive feel, being hung where such behaviour had taken place.

Emin donated the piece to the Government Art Collection in 2011 when David Cameron was prime minister, and he had it installed in Downing Street.

She told host Emma Barnett: “I don’t want the work back because I donated it. I would simply like at the moment for it to be taken down, because the neon is notoriously for a party atmosphere.

“You have them at funfairs, casinos, bars or whatever. I really do not feel that Number 10 needs any encouragement on this level.”

Emin said Mr Cameron’s Government had a “very different attitude towards art and contemporary art”.

She added: “The way the Government treated the arts during lockdown.

“The Government actually doesn’t think that art should be in schools, does not think that art should be on the school curriculum, does not value art, does not value culture.

“By me saying this I am just proving how important art and culture is – so I have got my own agenda here as well.”

A spokeswoman for the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, which administers the collection, said: “When an artwork comes into the Government Art Collection, the Collection can display the work at any of its 365 locations.

“On occasions the Collection may consult with an artist when a work is going to a specific location.”

Emin said she knew Prime Minister Boris Johnson enjoyed the artwork being in Number 10 because he had personally told her.

However, she added: “I want it taken down and this Government, I will tell you what they need, they need compassion. That’s what they need, not passion. They don’t need more party atmosphere.

“Most of us are obeying the rules in every single way because this pandemic has affected everybody so terrible, whether it is financially, whether it was health-wise, people dying or whatever. And this Government doesn’t seem to care about that…”

Emin caused controversy in the art world when she declared herself a Conservative supporter but later criticised Mr Cameron over his decision to hold a referendum on leaving the EU.

Known for her headline-grabbing ’90s works Everyone I Have Ever Slept With and My Bed, she revealed in 2020 she had been diagnosed with cancer.

Emin underwent major surgery and is now cancer-free.