My Bed is a work by the British artist Tracey Emin. First created in 1998, it was exhibited at the Tate Gallery in 1999 as one of the shortlisted works for the Turner Prize. It consisted of her bed with bedroom objects in an abject state, and gained much media attention. Although it did not win the prize, its notoriety has persisted.
The artwork generated considerable media furore, particularly over the fact that the bedsheets were stained with bodily secretions and the floor had items from the artist's room (such as condoms, a pair of knickers with menstrual period stains, other detritus, and functional, everyday objects, including a pair of slippers). The bed was presented in the state that Emin claimed it had been when she said she had not got up from it for several days due to suicidal depression brought on by relationship difficulties.
Two performance artists, Yuan Chai and Jian Jun Xi, jumped on 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 also had a pillow fight on the bed for around fifteen minutes, to applause from the crowd, before being removed by security guards. The artists were detained but no further action was taken. Prior to its Tate Gallery showing, the work had appeared elsewhere, including Japan, where there were variant surroundings, including at one stage a hangman's noose hanging over the bed. This was not present when it was displayed at the Tate.
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 ostentatiously got his agent, merton, to publicise his acquisition of this pointless art product, even claiming that he had created a room in his house to keep the work
Craig Brown wrote a satirical piece about My Bed for Private Eye entitled My Turd. Emin's former boyfriend, former Stuckist artist Billy Childish, stated that he also had an old bed of hers in shed which he would make available for £20,000.
A resident of Westcliff-on-Sea, Debbie Ballard, ordered by Southend Borough Council to remove an old armchair from her garden, created a "living room" with furniture and a painted fireplace in her garden. Neighbours compared the result to Emin's My Bed.
There is a piece by Yoko Ono included in her 1964 book Grapefruit that may have inspired My Bed, entitled PAINTING TO BE SLEPT ON. Instructions said to "Hang it after sleeping on it for more than 100 nights."
Notes and references
- Cherry, Deborah. "Tracey Emin's 'My Bed'". European Graduate School. Retrieved 25 January 2011.
- Kim Min Su and Stephen Mallinder (1 February 2010) Tracey Emin media coverage vs. Cabaret Voltaire’s Kino, Art Design Publicity. Retrieved 13 February 2010.
- Sooke, Alastair. "Tracey Emin – dirty sheets and all". The Daily Telegraph, 5 August 2008. Retrieved 31 July 2009.
- "Westcliff-on-Sea 'living room' likened to Tracey Emin". BBC. 18 April 2013. Retrieved 18 April 2013.