Tracey Emin has demanded that an artwork she donated to the government’s collection be removed from 10 Downing Street, saying the “current situation is shameful”.
More Passion, a neon artwork, was installed in Downing Street in 2011 when David Cameron was prime minister.
In an Instagram post on Wednesday, Emin said she was asking for it to be removed. She later told the Guardian that Boris Johnson’s “behaviour and lack of contrition” over the Downing Street parties scandal were “bizarre”.
“This is my neon that hangs at 10 Downing Street. It was a gift from myself to the government art collection,” she wrote on Instagram. “I am now in the process of requesting that my artwork be removed from 10 Downing Street. I feel More Passion is the last thing this present government needs. This current situation is shameful.”
Cameron, who invited Emin to create an artwork after he became prime minister, hung the neon sign outside the first-floor Terracotta Room, which is often used for hospitality purposes. Its position made it visible to many visitors.
Emin said: “I gave [the artwork] as a gift, I’m not asking for it back. The artwork belongs to the government, not whoever’s in power right now. It could hang in the British embassy in Cairo, or go back into storage. There are many places it could go, but just right at the moment I don’t think it’s a very good idea if it’s at 10 Downing Street.”
Revelations about parties in Downing Street while people were “holding funerals through their telephones” were shameful and “people were really hurt by this”, she said. “Everybody throughout society has suffered through Covid. I just find the [prime minister’s] behaviour and lack of contrition bizarre.”
Emin, 58, was nominated for the Turner prize in 1999, exhibiting My Bed, an installation of her own unmade bed featuring used condoms and blood-stained underwear.
Her work has been created in a variety of media including drawing, painting, sculpture, film, photography, neon text and sewn appliqué.
The government art collection contains more than 14,000 works, most of which are on display in buildings in the UK and embassies across the world. It includes oil paintings, sculptures, prints, drawings, photographs, textiles and video works, mainly by British artists, dating back to the 16th century.
Last year a freedom of information request from the Spectator revealed that Johnson and his wife, Carrie, had chosen 44 works from the collection to display in Downing Street. They include several by Peter Blake, the pop artist who designed the cover of the Beatles’ 1967 album Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.
The government art collection declined to comment.