Emin's sculpture, 'My Bed,' exceeded the auction guide price and broke the artist's record.
Picture: Tracey Emin - Terrence Higgins 30th Anniversary Auction - Arrivals - London, United Kingdom - Thursday 21st March 2013
Tracey Emin's artwork My Bed has sold in London for £2.54 million, a much larger figure than the guide price of between £800,000 and £1.2 million. The 1999 seminal art installation, which documents the artist's traumatic relationship breakdown, has changed hands from Charles Saatchi to Jay Jopling, the art dealer and founder of the White Cube gallery.
The Christie's sale reportedly opened at £650,000 and the bidding steadily got higher until Emin's artwork eventually went for over double the estimate at £2.54m. As the winning bid was announced, Emin was spotted smiling and applauding, according to The Guardian.
The large sculpture depicts a bed that Emin claims to have spent a week in after a bad break up. Complete with vodka bottles, tampons, dirty clothing, cigarette butts and pregnancy tests, the shocking installation didn't win the 1999 Turner Prize, having lost out to Steve McQueen.
The artist distanced herself from her most notorious piece because she said she felt a detachment from the scene. However, she gave a speech before the auction talking about the inspiration behind My Bed. "Well I spent four days in bed. And I was feeling at a very low ebb. And, for two of those four days I was asleep and I didn't wake up," she said.
"It was about the breakup of a relationship with someone I was really in love with. And it was also about my own sort of desperation; it was very romantic in lots of ways. It was almost like a 19th-century bohemian, 'have you ever half-lived?'.
More: What exactly is so significant about Tracey Emin's 'My Bed'?
"It's very romantic, what I was feeling was the saddest kind of romanticism that anybody could ever imagine. I could have written a broken-hearted love story at the same time, and I did, with the bed."
She added that the work had changed her life, saying "I think about the bed almost every day when I make my own bed. I'll always be grateful for the bed. And if I could show the bed in my next show and my next show and my next show, I would. Because I think the bed will forever stand up to time."
More: Tracey Emin made professor at London's Royal Academy.
My Bed is one of 50 modern artworks and installations being sold by Saatchi this year as his collection undergoes a major clearout.
Emin was philosophical as she discussed her piece being changed hands, describing the sale as "the end of an era. Saatchi's had this 90s thing in his house like a time capsule. Now it's historical."
Tracey Emin Watched Her Famous 'My Bed' Sculpture Sell For Over £2.5 Million.