Art experts have called for Tracey Emin’s My Bed to be put on public display, after it emerged her art dealer Jay Joplin had bought the “iconic” work on behalf of an unnamed client.
Tania Buckrell Pos, head of specialist art consultancy Arts & Management International, said: “It is a pivotal piece, it belongs in a museum. Hopefully whoever he bought it for will pass it to an institution.”
The best place for it, she continued, would be the Tate, saying: “That’s absolutely where it should be.”
The White Cube would only confirm that “we were involved in the purchase on behalf of a client” adding it was “very early days at this stage”.
“I would like to see it stay in Britain,” Ms Pos said. “But the argument has been made that it would be great to go abroad to promote the YBA movement. If it goes on display it is a win-win situation.” A spokeswoman for the Tate declined to comment on whether the institute work.
Francis Outred, head of contemporary art at Christie’s, hinted it may go on public display saying it was “going to end up somewhere important so watch this space for an announcement”.
The work sold for £2.5m, more than twice the estimate. “I thought it was pretty strong,” Ms Pos said. “I knew it would sell but didn’t think it would sell that well.”
The adviser added: “The general consensus is it is probably the most definitive piece of the YBA movement. It marked a moment in time that the YBAs came to be. Hopefully Jay’s client will be generous.”
The piece, made after a break up, shows the artist’s unmade bed with stained sheets and cigarette butts and condoms around it.
The 1998 piece, which had been put up for sale by Charles Saatchi, went under the hammer on Tuesday night at Christie’s in London. He had paid £150,000 for the work at the turn of the century.
Emin applauded as her art dealer, who founded the White Cube gallery, secured the piece. Her previous record at auction had been £482,000.