My Bed  

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Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel
Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel

My Bed is a work by the British artist Tracey Emin. It was exhibited at the Tate Gallery in 1999 as one of the shortlisted works for the Turner Prize. It literally consisted of her bed with bedroom objects in an abject state, and gained much media attention, but nevertheless did not win the prize. Its notoriety, however, has persisted.


There was considerable media furore about this, particularly as the sheets of the bed were stained with body secretion and the floor surrounding it had items from her room such as condoms, a pair of knickers with period stains and other detritus, including a pair of slippers. The bed was presented as it had been when Emin had stayed in it for several days, feeling suicidal because of relationship difficulties.

Two performance artists, Yuan Chai and Jian Jun Xi, jumped onto the bed with bare torsos in order to "improve" the work, which they thought had not gone far enough. They called their performance Two Naked Men Jump Into Tracey's Bed. The men managed to stay on the bed for around fifteen minutes, to applause from the crowd, before being apprehended by security guards. The artists were detained but no further action was taken.

Prior to its Tate showing, the work had appeared elsewhere, including Japan, where there were variant surroundings, including at one stage a noose hanging over the bed. This was not present when it was displayed at the Tate.

Emin is very particular that she should herself arrange the bed and attendant items, and has objected when this has been attempted by workmen.

My Bed was bought by Charles Saatchi for £150,000 and displayed as part of the first exhibition when the Saatchi Gallery opened its new premises at County Hall, London (which it has now vacated). Saatchi also installed the bed in a dedicated room in his own home.

My Bed has came very quickly to symbolise a certain kind of art, usually referred to as conceptual art, which is appreciated by much of the art world, as much as it is ridiculed or even abhorred by the general public. Craig Brown wrote a satirical piece about My Bed for Private Eye entitled My Turd. Emin's former boyfriend, Stuckist artist Billy Childish, stated that he also had an old bed of hers in the shed which he would make available for £20,000.

Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "My Bed" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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