Tracey Emin, My Bed (c. 1999)

Tracey Emin, My Bed (c. 1999) Installation.

Tracey Emin is the original bad girl artist. A member of the Young British Artists (YBAs) collective, her works exhibit shocking revelations about the artist herself and her past. Her most famous works, including the above My Bed (1999), all revolve around her personal life or aspects of her past. Like other members of the YBAs she works with assistants on all her works and so does not always create them herself. The other most prominent YBA is Damien Hirst, known for his ostentatious creations including a stuffed shark and a diamond-encrusted skull.

My Bed is a notorious work of art. Though it was first displayed in the Tate Gallery during its nomination for the Turner Prize in 1999 the work caused an uproar. The work itself consists of Emin's bed after she had lain in it for roughly seven days while contemplating suicide. The objects that surround the bed include used condoms, stained undergarments, cigarette butts, empty bottles of alcohol and the bed itself is covered in stained sheets with bodily fluids. The stark exposure of the audience to the artist's most intimate space was a bit much for many of the crowds and though it was received well by critics and Turner committee alike it did not ultimately win the Prize in 1999. This work was purchased by Charles Saatchi for £150,000 that year.

The work is an important step in understanding the YBAs because of its fabrication and its shock value. The movement of Young British Artists is one of the most well-known contemporary art movement in large part because the works cause such a sensation when exhibited. The shock value makes them great fodder for the newspaper because controversy sells newspapers. My Bed and Emin's other most famous work, Everyone I Have Ever Slept With 1963–1995, are both controversial and shocking because of their content and blatant sexuality. I hope to hear readers comments on this work because it is so much more about the audience's reaction than any detailed explanation of influence.

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