The Queen once quipped that she was “too grand for us”. Now Princess Michael of Kent has struck up an unlikely friendship with Tracey Emin, the one-time bad girl of Brit Art, to modernise and “educate” her artistic tastes.
The princess, who is married to the Queen’s first cousin, used to live in Nether Lypiatt, a Gloucestershire manor house filled with antiques, family portraits and porcelain, but her new friend is giving her advice on starting a modern art collection. They have recently been visiting galleries together, discussing possible purchases.
The backgrounds of the pair could hardly be more different. Emin, 46, the daughter of a Turkish Cypriot father and an English mother, spent a turbulent and troubled childhood in Margate, Kent. She is known for her raucous, often sexually explicit art. Princess Michael was born to central European aristocracy, married Prince Michael of Kent, and now lives in a flat in Kensington Palace after selling Nether Lypiatt to Lord Drayson, the Labour peer, for £5.75m.
Recent developments have allowed the tastes of the two women to converge. While Emin’s wildness has mellowed, the former Marie-Christine von Reibnitz, 64, has cleared out many of her heirlooms as she is forced to make economies and downsize her lifestyle. Last week, the princess told The Sunday Times she was “gently starting to collect contemporary art” with help from her “great friend Tracey Emin”. In addition to their tours of dealers and arts world functions, the pair have been seen lunching at the St John Bread & Wine restaurant near Emin’s flat in east London and have taken tea at Kensington Palace.
This month, the princess was spotted at the Frieze art fair in London eyeing a pair of works by Georg Baselitz, the German neo-expressionist painter. She has also taken to Emin’s own art. At one auction, she bid for a piece featuring a comment about the artist’s love life scrawled in neon, but did not win it.
“She clearly likes the woman and she’s stimulated by her,” said a friend. “They’ve obviously found a connection and she’s learning from her.”
Tracey Emin @ Aberdeen Art Gallery
Tracey Emin: My LIfe In A Column