Culture for Dummies: Tracey Emin’s My Bed


Tracey Emin’s My Bed holds more significance than its success in engendering countless, glib remarks about the trite which is contemporary British art. Although arguably not a whole lot more. She was shortlisted for the Turner Prize in 1999, Britain’s annual prize for visual art awarded to an artist under 50 years old. Rather unfortunately perhaps, Emin is also often mistakenly cited as actually having won this internationally recognized award with My Bed.

In an effort to improve and “fully respond to Tracey’s Bed”, two Chinese performance artists partook in the performance Two Naked Men Jump into Tracey’s Bed, which involved precisely that- although they did retain their trousers. After being removed by security, the artists commented they wanted to push the work further, deciding that writing words such as “Internationalism”, “Freedom”, “Anarchism” and “Idealism” across their bodies and a pillow fight would “make the public think about what is good art or bad art”. Precise details of the restoration and the consequent inflation or deflation of My Bed’s worth were withheld.

Regardless of the mere monetary values associated with My Bed, the piece is clarified by Saatchi’s website as “revealing [Emin’s] as insecure and imperfect as the rest of the world”, which may be comforting thought for some. Or not.

Rebecca Choong Wilkins

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