Sunday, July 6, 2014

Tracey Emin's Four Million Dollar Bed Says Something About Our Values Though I'm Not Sure What

"Tracey Emin's provocative 1998 installation "My Bed," which depicts underwear stained with menstrual blood, alcohol containers and a used condom, sold in London for 2.5 million pounds (about $4.3 million) on Tuesday as part of a Christie's auction of contemporary art that brought in a total of $170.5 million." ~ L.A. Times

Among my first thoughts when I read the news of "The Bed" fetching more than four million dollars was of how paltry the sums are for artifacts of music industry celebrities. Dylan's lyrics to Like a Rolling Stone only garnered two million dollars, and Elvis's peacock suit barely more than a half million in a recent Sotheby's auction.

In the same auction a Francis Bacon painting sold for near 20 million dollars and the day before Bacon's tryptich of George Dyer sold for about 45 million.

The seller of The Bed was Charles Saatchi, Baghdad-born co-founder of Saatchi & Saatchi, a major league ad agency with thousands of employees and offices in 76 countries. Charles, a longtime art collector, purchased The Bed for just over a quarter million dollars. His purchase provided a sixteen-fold return-on-investment.

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Tracey Emin was born in 1963. She became part of a group called the Young British Artists. In 1999 The Bed was on the short list of selections for The Turner Prize, which is awarded each year to a contemporary artist. In 1997 she gained recognition for a tent which was titled "Everyone I Have Ever Slept With." In addition to all the men with whom she'd been intimate the piece also listed siblings and cousins she slept with when they were kids growing up, as well as the two pre-children she aborted.

Emin, who is not yet a household name in the U.S., is evidently an eminent artist as she was selected to represent Britain in the 2007 Venice Bienniale.

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Yesterday I was talking with a college art instructor and brought up The Bed. Her visceral response was disappointment, that it seemed like something a college sophomore would do. Is this serious art? Is Emin making a statement about our times?

What she says is that this was her bed. The used condom (or condoms, depending on which article source material you draw from), the booze, the stains, the mess... this is our lens into who she was and is. Does she represent a prototype Western female? Or is the work praised because it represents the postmodern deconstruction of Western values?

Oh well. 

1 comment:

Cookware Chef said...

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"Charles Saatchi" and see your blog. Thank you for your information.