Tracey Emin spoke of her bitterness yesterday at the way society treats women such as herself with no desire to have children.

The 48-year-old artist said her wild days are behind her and she is settling into a calmer life.

But she lamented the way that women who are happy to remain childless are seen as social outcasts.

At the opening yesterday of her homecoming show in Margate, Kent, she said: 'My work is about not wanting to have a child. In society, if you don't want to have children, people think that you're a bit of a witch.'


'There comes a time when you hit your 40s when you haven't had children, every time you go out the subject will come up and people will ask you why you haven't had children.'

'And I'll say, "I don't want to have children" and then you have to explain it or why you couldn't have children. It's very tedious and very boring.'

Recent official statistics showed how better educational and career opportunities in the past four decades have led to rising levels of childless women.

Among those born in 1965, around 20 per cent reached the age of 45 without having any children, according to the Office for National Statistics.

Among those born a generation earlier - in 1945 - only 10 per cent were childless by the age of 45.

Miss Emin, who gained notoriety for works with names such as Everyone I Have Ever Slept With, declared her sex life is mostly over. She added that her new show, at the Turner Contemporary gallery, reflects her feelings on becoming older and entering the menopause. 'It's about the lake becoming empty,' she said.

'It's about being a woman going into her 50s, when it's never going to be the same. It's the girl who's never coming back.'

So striking is the change that she has created a sequel to her controversial My Bed - although this time minus the condoms and dirty knickers.

The 1998 work, which featured the artist's bed after a week-long nervous breakdown, attracted criticism when it was shortlisted for the Turner Prize.

Her new bed is named Dead Sea and consists of another old mattress carrying a simple bronze-cast branch which she says represents her ageing self.

Everyone I Have Ever Slept With, created in 1997, was a tent embroidered with the many names of people who had shared her bed between 1963 and 1995.

But the outspoken artist revealed she had now lost her libido after an operation for severe endometriosis brought on by the menopause. She said she does not have a sexual relationship with her new boyfriend.

Miss Emin said her show, She Lay Down Deep Beneath the Sea, is a gift to Margate, the seaside town where she grew up and the inspiration for many of her most famous works.

- Daily Mail