LONDON (Reuters) - Tracey Emin's "My
Bed," complete with cigarette butts, crumpled sheets and underwear,
sold for 2.5 million pounds ($4.25 million) on Tuesday, a record for
the artist, who was present at the auction and applauded and whooped
Emin's 1998 work, which fetched over 1 million pounds above
its top estimated price, and a Francis Bacon portrait of Lucian
Freud, which sold for 11.5 million pounds, were the show
stoppers in a 75 strong collection of portrait-themed works
auctioned by Christie's.
Filing past Emin's installation, bidders crammed into Christie's
Central London auction room and spilling out of the door, to
spend a total of 99 million pounds in a sale that also featured
paintings by Andy Warhol and Damien Hirst.
The auction house said it was very rare for an artist to attend
an auction, and it demonstrated the connection Emin felt to the
highly personal work.
The price reached for Emin's work, described by the auction
house as an iconic piece of 1990s British art, quadrupled her
previous sale price record, but Christie's said the market was
"There is a very discerning element to this market. It's not a
frothy market. People are really making distinct choices. Its a
very subjective response to works," Brett Gorvy, Christie's
international head of post-war and contemporary art, said after
A painting by Peter Doig, the huge oil "Gasthof," sold for 9.9
million pounds, beating the estimated price of 3 million to 5
million pounds, and beating a record set the previous day for
one of the Scottish artist's works.
Around 190 bidders from 28 countries took part in the auction,
Christie's said, with interest from Europe, North America, the
Middle East and Asia.
Bacon's 1967 portrait, one of only two single portrait heads
Bacon painted of his friend and rival Freud, was sold by the
estate of the British author Roald Dahl for 11.5 million,
towards the top range of the auction house's 8 million to 12
million pound estimate.
But the price was a relatively poor showing for a Bacon piece
compared with his recent record-breaking at auction. The highest
price ever paid for a work of art at auction was the sale by
Christie's of a large format triptych in New York last November
for just over $142 million. Rival auction house Sotheby's sold a
Bacon small-format triptych on Monday for 26.7 million pounds,
soaring above a 20 million-pound top price guidance.
Bacon's 14 x 12 inch painting with its distinctive green strokes had
been in Dahl's private collection from the beginning. The two were
friends and Dahl bought the painting for 2,850 pounds with the
proceeds from his children's novel "Charlie and the Chocolate
Some of the proceeds from the Bacon sale will be diverted to two
charities championed by Dahl, and by his family since his death in
All the buyers from the auction chose to remain anonymous, meaning
Emin will have to wait to find out whether her Turner short-listed
work will end up in a museum, a wish she expressed the week before.
"My Bed," auctioned for the first time, was sold by the Saatchi
Fifteen years ago, the startlingly human elements of the work, which
includes discarded condoms and stained sheets, caused a sensation,
raising questions about what was and was not art.
The British artist had transformed her bed and the connected
detritus from a depressed period in her life into a portrait of
sorts, which had been expected to sell for between 800,000 pounds
and 1.2 million pounds.
Speaking ahead of the auction, Emin told Reuters TV that the work
felt like "a ghost."
"I feel quite sad, and I feel that it's like a fragment of time,"
she added.($1 = 0.5877 British Pounds)
(Reporting by Sarah Young.; Additional reporting by Holly
Rubenstein. Editing by Andre Grenon)