When Tracey Emin first exhibited "My Bed" at Tate Britain back in 1999, the work was met with a mixture of high praise and disgust, depending on who you were. As they say, good art polarises, and after '99 Emin never looked back, cementing her position as one of Britain's most celebrated artists, a Turner Prize nominee and postergirl for the YBAs. Yesterday, "My Bed" returned to Tate Britain for the first time in 15 years.
Emin says of the way that the piece has evolved over the years, "I think now people see the bed as a very different thing. With history and time, the bed now looks incredibly sweet and there’s this enchantment to it. I think people will see it differently as they see me differently. And there are things on that bed that now have a place in history. Even forms of contraception, the fact that I don’t have periods anymore, the fact that the belt that went round my waist now only fits around my thigh."
The artwork, a homage to the heartbreak of a messy break up Emin went through while living in a London council flat, was first exhibited in 1998 at the Sagacho Exhibit Space in Tokyo. Last year, it sold for £2.54 million to Jay Jopling, art dealer and the founder of London's much-lauded art galleries White Cube. He bought it on behalf of Count Christian Duerckheim, a German businessman who has lent the work to the Tate for the next ten years.
Second time around at Tate Britain, Emin is glad that the context is different. "It’s really important to me to show it in context," she says. "When I showed it originally at the Tate Britain as part of the Turner Prize, nobody even bothered looking at the work that surrounded it, even though there were my watercolours, my drawings. So what’s really great by having the Bacons around it, people will look at the Bacons and they will understand the connection with the bed and my other drawings."
Watch an exclusive clip of Emin discussing the depression that catalysed "My Bed" and how much she has changed since then: