When Tracey Emin got dumped, she didn’t get out of bed for four days, depressed. Then she took her dirty bed and turned it into a famous work of art.
The work consists of dirty sheets, underpants stained by menses, used condoms, empty liquor bottles, and pregnancy tests. It was shortlisted for the coveted Turner Prize in 1999, but did not win. It did, however, help cinch Emin’s notoriety as one of the YBAs—that is, Young British Artists, though she and her contemporaries like Damien Hirst are no longer so young.
In an interview last year with the New York Times Magazine, Emin said revisiting ‘My Bed’ when reinstalling it for exhibits brought back evocative memories of her youth: “I was thinking, with the cigarettes, that’s so weird because I don’t smoke anymore. I haven’t had sex for years, and there’s this condom. God, there’s a tampon, and I haven’t had a period for years.”
The work is arguably Emin’s best-known, rivaled only by ‘Everyone I Have Ever Slept With 1963–1995,’ a tent whose interior she appliquéd with the names of everyone whose bed she had ever shared, sexually or platonically. That work, also acquired by Saatchi, was destroyed in the Momart warehouse fire in London in 2004.
‘My Bed’ sold for approximately $3.77 million, which would buy you something in the region of 2,500 ordinary beds priced at $1,500 each.