New Years Honours: Tracey Emin’s CBE is like being “pushed in at the deep end”

09:00 29 December 2012

Tracey Emin. Picture: Ian West/PA Wire

Tracey Emin. Picture: Ian West/PA Wire

PA Archive/Press Association Images

Artist Tracey Emin said being made a CBE felt like being “pushed in at the deep end”.

The 49-year-old east Londoner, who grew up in Margate, Kent, first made an impression on the wider public outside the art world in 1997 with a drunken appearance on a television discussion show about the Turner Prize which ended with her pulling her microphone off and telling the audience “I’ve had a really good night out”.

Two years later, she was shortlisted for the prize and exhibited one of her most famous works, My Bed, at the Tate Gallery.

The unmade bed, littered with condoms, cigarette packets and a pair of knickers divided the critics but began the process of making her one of the country’s most famous living artists.

Her work sells for high prices around the world and one piece - a neon sign reading More Passion - was installed in Downing Street last year.

Asked about her CBE, the 49-year-old said: “I think they pushed me in at the deep end. But I’m absolutely thrilled. It’s been insane trying to keep it a secret but I’m really looking forward to seeing the look on my mum’s face.

“For me this honour is a symbol of how art can change people’s perception of life and view the world in a different way. Art is a great enabler as it has helped me to achieve many things throughout my life and through my daily life to help many other people. I am pleased and happy to have recognition for this. But always in life recognition is not why we do things. We do things because of vocation, because we have to do them.”

At the height of her notoriety, posters she put up near her east London home appealing for the return of her cat were being torn down and reportedly sold for hundreds of pounds.

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