Entertainment & Arts

Tracey Emin 'hopes' bed artwork will go to museum

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Media captionBBC London's Helen Drew spoke to Tracey Emin

Tracey Emin 'hopes' her most famous artwork, an unmade bed, will end up in a museum after it is sold at auction.

My Bed (1998), which features stained sheets, cigarette packets, discarded condoms and soiled underwear, is being sold at Christie's on Tuesday.

It is expected to fetch between £800,000 and £1.2 million.

"The best possible result is that an amazing benefactor buys it and then donates it to a museum," Emin told the BBC News website.

"I have no idea where it's going to end up - or how much anyone is going to pay for it. There's never been anything like it for sale in an art auction before."

My Bed sparked public debate about the nature of contemporary art when it was shortlisted for the Turner Prize in 1999.

It gives a snapshot of Emin's life when she was depressed after the breakdown of a relationship.

The controversial piece is being sold by art collector Charles Saatchi, who bought it for £150,000 in 2000.

Speaking at Christie's in London on Friday, Emin admitted that seeing the artwork again gave her "flashbacks" to 16 years ago.

"I can't really come to the reality of the situation that it's moved and gone so far. Now to see it in Christie's is a really surreal experience."

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption My Bed (1998) gives a snapshot of a traumatic relationship break-up
Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption The work includes empty vodka bottles, cigarette packets, discarded condoms and soiled underwear

"When I made the bed today I actually had to get in and pull the duvet over me and then push it back to make it feel and look real. Even the smell is all still there for me. It's very evocative."

She added: "Even though Charles has had this bed for so long, it's now going on a different journey. Let's hope it goes to a really nice place - it's helped me a lot."

Emin, who grew up in the seaside town of Margate, said the artwork had provoked different reactions around the world.

"In Japan they were shocked by my dirty slippers but they stole some bloody knickers and some condoms," she said.

"In America it was like: 'Yeah, we've seen feminist art before, we've done it already'. No fuss - they just treated it like a regular artwork.

"In the UK, it exploded with the Turner Prize. It just went crazy."

Emin said she still thought of the work as "iconic".

"There was nothing in the world of art that has ever looked like this, that has ever been like this, it's seminal. It changed people's perceptions of what art is, and what art can be. That's why it's still really special to me.

"I would show this at my next exhibition. I still love it, I still stand by it - and I made it 16 years ago."

My Bed is being sold as part of Christie's Post-War and Contemporary Art sale on 1 July which includes works by Francis Bacon, Peter Doig, Andy Warhol and Jackson Pollock.

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