The London gallery has announced that it has acquired Tracey Emin’s Death Mask , purchased for for £67,500 with a contribution of £30,000 from the Art Fund, and further support from White Cube and the artist.

Tracey Emin_Tracey Emin's ‘Death Mask’_Jorge Herrera Photography_002.jpg
Tracey Emin’s Death Mask. (c) Jorge Herrera. 

The Death Mask was unveiled at the gallery, accompanied by a new display Life, Death and Memory which looks at the complex and sometimes troubling relationship between portraiture and mortality.

The display also includes a death mask of John Constable; seventeenth century memento mori paintings of sitters with skulls including the diarist John Evelyn and the botanist and gardener John Tradescant the Younger; and posthumous portraits including Sir Antony van Dyck’s commemorative painting of Venetia, Lady Digby.

Tracey Emin created her own ‘death mask’ back in 2002 – her first sculpture in bronze and an ironic reference to the autobiographical nature of her work.

Talking about the acquisition Dr Nicholas Cullinan, Director, National Portrait Gallery, said: ‘We are delighted to have acquired Death Mask by Tracey Emin, one of the most striking and singular portraits to join the Gallery’s Collection in recent years. 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. Our sincere thanks to Art Fund, White Cube and Tracey for making this acquisition possible.’

Tracey Emin’s Death Mask is on display as part of the Life, Death and Memory in Room 15/16, Second Floor, National Portrait Gallery, London, 13 April 2017-16 April 2018. 

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