Two leading ladies of the arts to be made Dames

Tracey Emin alongside her assistant Harry Weller (Tracey Emin)
Tracey Emin alongside her assistant Harry Weller (Tracey Emin)

Two of the arts’ most celebrated women are set to become dames in the latest King’s Birthday Honours list.

Acclaimed British artist Tracey Emin CBE and the philanthropist and author Hannah Rothschild CBE will receive damehoods for their contributions to the art scene.

Emin has been a star in the arts world since the 1990s, gaining global recognition for her 1997 installation Everyone I Have Ever Slept With 1963-1995. It is a tent appliquéd with the names of all the people she had slept with.

Her other most famous work is My Bed – Emin’s own debris-covered, dirty, unmade bed in which she’d spent several weeks sleeping, smoking and having sex. The controversial installation sold for more than £2m at auction and was shortlisted for the 1999 Turner Prize, awarded that year to Steve McQueen.

In 2007, Margate-based Emin exhibited at the world-famous Venice Biennale and was made a Royal Academician by the Royal Academy of Arts (RAA); in 2011 she was made an academician of drawing. More recent artworks include I Want My Time With You, her large-scale neon work in flamingo pink, installed at London St Pancras Station under the large central clock in 2018.

Emin’s experience of surviving cancer has shaped her latest work. In spring 2020, during the Covid-19 pandemic, she was diagnosed with bladder cancer and underwent devastating surgery to remove her bladder and other organs, which has required her to have a stoma.

“I was told I might only have six months, but I felt very calm, as I am in big moments,” she told The Independent’s Geordie Greig earlier this year of her diagnosis. “It’s a bit like drowning: if you panic, you will definitely die. If calm, you breathe and see where the water’s going, where the air bubbles are rising, and you swim up and are OK.”

Emin was told she might be dead by Christmas; her “tactic” was “I’ll just let death take care of itself, because if you’re going to die, you’re going to die; I’ll get on with the living.” Now in remission, she has “never been more active. Tracey Emin is working like a demon!” she said, adding that she had also “never been happier or more content.”

Emin sits in front of her 1998 piece ‘My Bed’ on display at Christie’s in 2014 (Getty Images)
Emin sits in front of her 1998 piece ‘My Bed’ on display at Christie’s in 2014 (Getty Images)

Her latest show, By The Time You See Me There Will Be Nothing Left, is exhibiting at the Xavier Hufkens gallery in Brussels, Belgium, until 27 June and will be displayed in London in September.

Hannah Rothschild is a leading British philanthropist. She became the first woman to Chair the National Gallery in 2015 and remains chair of the American Friends of the National Gallery – while at the same time being on the board of the Tate. She has also been a trustee of the Whitechapel Gallery, the Institute of Contemporary Arts (ICA) and the Tate.

The award-winning documentary filmmaker, best-selling novelist and journalist has chaired Yad Hanadiv, a charity dedicated to supporting all the inhabitants of Israel through a programme dedicated to early childhood, education, equal opportunities, Arab society and the environment, since 2018. The foundation built the Knesset, the Supreme Court and most recently the National Library.

Hannah Rothschild is a patron of the arts (Rebecca Northway)
Hannah Rothschild is a patron of the arts (Rebecca Northway)

She is also the patron and Chair of The Rothschild Foundation, responsible for awarding grants each year to maintain the National Trust property Waddesdon Manor – home to the Eythrope Gardens, created by Alice de Rothschild, in the late 19th century – as well as supporting other arts and heritage sites, such as the National Gallery, Tate, Wallace, RSC and Somerset House.

During the pandemic, Rothschild established the Covid-19 Support Fund, which provided grants to support local third sector organisations; this charitable work continues today via a community fund.

She is the daughter of Lord (Jacob) Rothschild, the greatest art philanthropist of his generation, whose memorial on Thursday at Waddesdon Manor was attended by the King and Queen, the President of Israel, former President Clinton and former US Secretary of State Hillary, as well as ex prime minister Tony Blair. Sadly, he never lived to see his daughter become a dame but his admiration and appreciation of her talents was made clear in his decision to make her chair of the Rothschild Foundation.