Peek Inside The Studios Of 14 Art Stars

120 portraits of some of the U.K.’s sharpest creative minds, in their work spaces, from Tracey Emin to Gilbert & George.


An artist’s studio gives you an unimpeded view into his or her inner life and creative process–perhaps more so than an actual chat might. That’s what makes Sanctuary: Britain’s Artists and their Studios, from Thames and Hudson, so fascinating. This 600-page tome offers a rare glimpse into the work spaces of 120 of today’s most creative minds, including Yinka Shonibare, Juergen Teller, Jenny Saville, Anish Kapoor, and Tracey Emin.


Accompanying Robin Friend’s studio photography are images of each artist’s work and enlightening interviews about his or her creative processes by editor Hossein Amirsadeghi. Here are portraits of 14 of these artists’ work spaces, along with their insights into their work.

Grayson Perry

The famously cross-dressing Grayson Perry, pictured here as his alter ego Claire in a puff-sleeved lavender frock, describes his workspace as a “bloke’s shed,” “a kind of cockpit” and a “male womb.” “It’s where I’m most un-acted out, where I’m most ‘authentic,’ to use a horrific word,” he says. Claire never goes to the studio, he says, because pottery is too messy to do in finery. So what does this feminine persona bring to his work? “Being a trannie means that I’ve exempted myself from the tyranny of ‘cool,'” he says. “One of the most uncreative forces is this social, aesthetic pressure that ‘coolness’ brings to things, this idea that there is a right way to do something.”

Tracey Emin

Emin got her first studio after leaving the Royal College of Art. It was about $39 a week, a small classroom divided in half that she shared. Now, she works in an 8,503-square-foot custom-built space. “I’d be dead,” Emin says about what would happen if nature somehow took art away from her. “I’m with the arts like a lover. No matter how bad I am to it, it always comes back.”


Sarah Lucas

Lucas, Emin’s frequent partner in crime, is pictured here with her work Artist in Bed in residence at the St. John Hotel in London at the 2011 Frieze Art Fair. Her studio is a small shed in her garden, but she doesn’t often use it. “I always tend to work at home, on the kitchen table,” she says. “I like to be doing a bit of cooking, and I like to go away for something and come back. A lot happens when you’re making things if you’re not being too overdetermined about it. What often happens is that while you’re doing something else, it gives you space to think in.”

Gilbert & George

The duo have worked together since 1967, when they met at Saint Martins. They rented their first space for 12£ a month. When asked “What do you do for fun?” George responds incredulously: “Fun? Would you trust an artist who liked fun? Would you trust a happy artist? To be an artist is not an easy thing.”

Paula Rego

Rego’s studio is filled with papier mâché characters she uses for models, and it vaguely resembles a little chamber of horrors. “I drew a lot for vengeance,” she says. She describes a kind of DIY voodoo practice: “If you’re cross with somebody and you do their picture, you can hurt it like you do your dolls, cut off their fingers or whatever. I like the obscene, the grotesque, the beautiful grotesque.”


Sir Peter Blake

Blake’s studio, a former Georgian stable, served as a builder’s yard and garage for horse-drawn buses during World War I. The artist has filled it with collections of random objects, and he calls it a “museum of everything.” Its creation was partly inspired by his deprived childhood–Blake was seven when World War I started. “As I was evacuated, I missed that bit of childhood; I didn’t have any toys or anything.”

About the author

Carey Dunne is a Brooklyn-based writer covering art and design. Follow her on Twitter.