Saturday, 23 August 2014

£2.2 million sale of Tracey Emin’s iconic bed reflects the growing demand for women’s art


She first raised eyebrows with her infamous unmade bed when it was shortlisted for the Turner Prize and exhibited at the Tate Gallery in 1999. Titled ‘My Bed’, it sparked a debate about the meaning of art. Tracey Emin’s bed was subsequently bought by her London dealer, Jay Jopling of White Cube gallery, before being sold to advertising mogul Charles Saatchi for $255,000 in 2000.

On July 1 of this year, “My Bed” sold for £2.2 million at Christie’s in London – five times higher than the previous record sale for a work by Emin. The buyer, Count Christian Duerckheim of Germany, is now the proud owner of Emin’s iconic bed complete with rumpled sheets, empty vodka bottles, cigarette butts, condoms, and a pair of blood-stained knickers.

The 70-year-old Anglophile industrialist and art collector is giving his newly acquired artwork to the Tate on a long-term loan. A collector of art for the past 50 years, the Count said: “I always admired the honesty of Tracey, but I bought My Bed because it is a metaphor for life, where troubles begin and logics die.”

The multi-million pound purchase places the 51-year-old Emin on a list of women whose artworks are being eagerly sought out by collectors, breaking records in the process. Bloomberg reports that Emin is among six female artists who set personal records in the past few months at auctions held at Christie’s, Sotheby’s and Phillips in New York and London. In May, a 1960 Joan Mitchell abstract painting sold for $11.9 million at Christie’s – the most ever for a work by a woman. 

Emin now ranks 15th among living female artists, with sales totalling some $13.1 million since 2004, with a revenue jump of 332 percent in the past five years alone. David Maupin, her New York dealer at Lehmann Maupin gallery, called the price for her Bed a bargain for “a very important work.”

The trend is set to continue, with collectors and dealers both predicting that trophy pieces by women will eventually be sold for tens of millions of dollars, like those by male contemporaries Francis Bacon or Andy Warhol.

British-born Tracey Emin, whose father was a Turkish Cypriot, was appointed Commander of the Order of the British Empire in the 2013 New Year Honours List for services to the arts.

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