When an unmade bed is worth a million pounds (and why)
My children, in bed, in a Bedouin tent. While the contents are priceless (to me), the beds themselves are probably not worth an awful lot. Certainly not a million pounds. Why then is Tracey Emin’s version worth so much? Bought by Charles Saatchi for £150,000 in 2000, it is now expected to sell for about a million quid. Should this be the case, one can safely expect a rash of carping from various quarters about the notion of spending a million oners on a piece of furniture exhibiting stained sheets, stained knickers, discarded condoms, cigarette ends and an empty bottle of vodka. “Is this what they call Art?” people will say with faux bewilderment, knowing full well that such an iconic piece will obviously fly high in the sales room. My Bed isn’t going to get a million because it is a beautiful piece of art, any more than the gold-engraved bottle of Chateau Margaux which sold for £122,000 would be a nice thing to drink over dinner. It’s now a commodity, such things are ciphers for something else, usually the wealth and taste of the buyer. Except whoever eventually buys it must also have a fond nostalgia for the heyday of contemporary British art. Who could forget the time it was exhibited in Tate Britain and a pair of semi-naked pair of performance artists joyously jumped on it, not because they thought they had wandered into the John Lewis furnishings department, but in order to make a further work, entitled Two Naked Men Jump Into Tracey’s Bed. And that, by the way, is art.