‘My Bed’ to Tate Liverpool

Tracey Emin’ ‘My bed’ to come to Tate Liverpool next Summer

Two decades since its creation does it still have the same power to shock as it did in the Nineties?

Selling for just over 2.5 Million at Christies last year, Count Christian Dureckheim the new owner loaned ‘My Bed’ to the Tate for the next ten years. Currently being exhibited in Tate Britain, then travelling to Tate Liverpool, followed by a period at the Turner Contemporary in Margate, Emin’ home town. Is the public outcry the same as the original response when the piece was exhibited as Emin had been nominated for the Turner Prize in 1999? Has ‘My Bed’ lost its shock factor as an artwork which has mellowed over time?

Tracey Emin created ‘My Bed’ in her flat in Waterloo in 1998. The work is a response to a relationship brake down in which she spent four days in bed crying, in mustering the energy to get out of bed the scene she sees when returning was re-created in the artwork. The bed itself is the stage for the contents which represent a destructive lifestyle. Men and women’s underwear scattered across the bedding, items of contraception and KY Jelly representing sexual activity. The polaroids indicate pleasure through the time they where taken and the possibility of returning to these times. The passage of time is shown through the cigarette butts, the empty bottles and the excrement present on the bedding.

Emin had achieved high levels of success as an artist prior to her Turner Prize nomination in 1999 which triggered her to YBA (Young British Artist) status. Earlier works such as ‘Everyone I have ever slept with 1963-1995’ prominent in Charles Staachi’s Sensations exhibition held at the Royal Academy 1997. ‘My Bed’ represents a point in Emin’ life when she was troubled resulting from a difficult upbringing: a victim of sexual abuse, rape and abortion. These factors lead to a corrosive life style choices portrayed in her art form. Emin describes the piece as ‘A snapshot in time’. We now see a very different Tracey Emin at the age of 51. Although she still drinks the more negative ways are in the past. Her Artistic career has grown from strength to strength, she how has a four story studio and a number of employee’s who help with production and administration. The exhibits in the installation came from Emin’ original bed. Things which are now obsolete, contraception and branded goods which no longer exist in the form presented. Tampons she no longer needs and a belt which no longer fits.

Does ‘My bed’ have the same power to shock today as it had in the late nineties? Probably not, to the same extent as when it was first exhibited at Tate Britain, but that is the nature of the Art World and the Gallery going public. The creation of ‘My Bed’ can be seen as a positive drawn from the negative lifestyle which Emin was living in the nineties, a lifestyle which she has left in the Past.

Alison Little



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