The work was “created” when British artist Tracey Emin woke up one morning in 1998 after a bout of binge drinking with a terrible hangover, and looked at her totally disheveled bedroom and the bed in the middle of it.
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Rather than sink back into yet one more period of depression at the thought of cleaning it all up, she took another look at the scene around her and, in a flash of inspiration, decided the mess was really a very beautiful work of art. And who is to say she was wrong?
The work quickly became celebrated, and was shown in Japan and New York under the title “My Bed.” The work was then sold to Charles Saatchie who paid US$250, 000 for it – a huge sum fifteen years ago. Saatchie then shipped it over to his London Gallery where it has sat ever since until yesterday’s auction.
The proceeds of the sale will go to benefit the Saatchie Gallery’s Foundation.
It was Marcel Duchamps who first fully came to the realization that in the modern world art, as a defined term “Art”, is anything that an artist says is art. Thus Dada was born and even an old urinal could become art if he, Marcel Duchamps, said it was, and especially if once he signed it as well the public then agreed with him, thus creating the fiat currency of modernist art.
In part this was simply a huge intellectual conceit, and one which enabled him to make large amounts of money without much effort, rather like the way central banks create money. In part however it also reflected an important truth about art. If the business of an artist is to affect the way we as viewers of art perceive reality, then how we look at ordinary everyday objects can be affected in critical ways as well, once induced to do so just by the label an artist may put on them. Andy Warhol’s cans of soup are an excellent example.