Tracy Emin’s controversial work My Bed has sold for more than £2.5 million – four times the amount paid for any of her other pieces.
The unmade bed, strewn with empty vodka bottles, cigarette butts and discarded condoms, was nominated for the Turner Prize in 1999 and has continued to divide critics and the public.
The 50-year-old artist was at Christie’s in London to watch the auction on Tuesday, reportedly grinning and hugging a friend when it was sold.
A senior member of the famous auction house hinted it could end up on public display after being bought by an anonymous bidder.
Francis Outred, head of contemporary art, told a press conference: “I think it will end up going to a very good place.
"We can't announce it but I think it is going to end up somewhere important so watch this space for an announcement."
My Bed was previously sold to Charles Saatchi in 2000 for a reported £150,000 and he announced his intention to sell it earlier this year.
Banned, censored and 'offensive' artworks
Banned, censored and 'offensive' artworks
1/8 'My Bed' - Tracey Emin
Emin, one of the Young British Artists, created arguably her most iconic and controversial piece of art with 'My Bed'. It was short-listed for the 1999 Tuner Prize but sparked public outrage and a media furore. Emin's own bed is displayed here, surrounded by evidence of her sexual, self-destructive exploits. Stained sheets, fag butts, empty beer bottles, condom and worn underwear can all be seen in this image of suicidal depression following a major break-up.
2/8 'Christ You Know It Ain't Easy' - Sarah Lucas
This 3D piece by English artist and Tracey Emin contemporary Sarah Lucas is made from cigarette butts and depicts Christ being crucified on the cross of the English flag. It is thought to be a comment on the difficulty of quitting smoking. Lucas took up the habit aged 9. Much of her work is designed to be shocking and provocative - someone is always offended.
3/8 'Fountain' - Marcel Duchamp
This scandalous porcelain urinal, signed R.Mutt, was rejected by the Society of Independent Artists in 1917 even though the rules stated that any submission would be accepted from artists who paid the fee. Pictured here is a replica of the 1917 piece. The original is believed lost. 'Fountain' is an example of Duchamp's revolutionary 'readymades' - ordinary manufactured objects designated by the artist as art.
4/8 'The Holy Virgin Mary' - Chris Ofili
The provocative Sensation exhibit at the Brooklyn Art Museum in 1999 caused great offence. Nigerian artist Ofili's depiction of an African Madonna surrounded by black bottoms and elephant poo was called 'anti-Catholic' and 'horrible' by New York's mayor at the time. So 'horrible' that Rudy Giuliani filed a lawsuit against the museum.
5/8 'Immersion Piss Christ' - Andres Serrano
Two Catholic activists partially destroyed US artist Serrano's artwork while it was on display in the south of France. Created in 1987, it represents a small plastic crucifix submerged in a glass of the artist's own urine.
6/8 'Western-Christian Civilization' - Leon Ferrari
Argentine conceptual artist Ferrari often dealt with power and religion in his work, using images of Jesus and the Virgin Mary with cages, frying pans and even meat blenders. Showing Christ crucified on a fighter plane, 'Western-Christian Civilization' was a protest work against the Vietnam War. Governments were constantly battling against Ferrari - he was exiled from Brazil and a 2004 exhibition of his work was temporarily forced to close when Pope Francis intervened.
7/8 'Bacchante and Infant Faun' - Frederick William MacMonnies
This bronze statue caused an uproar in 1854 when an architect tried to erect it in the courtyard of the Boston Public Library. Modern viewers will see little to get het up about but the nude Roman wine deity's 'drunken indecency' offended the Women's Christian Temperance Union. It was taken down to the more liberal New York instead and is now exhibited in the Metropolitan Museum of Art. MacMonnies earned worldwide fame as a result.
8/8 'Saint Bartholomew, Exquisite Pain' - Damien Hirst
No stranger to controversy, Hirst's original sculpture had no fig leaf to protect his modesty. The artist added the extra detail to prevent issues with Chinese collectors and left it in when the sculpture was displayed in Qatar. Nudity can offend Islamic culture, particularly in places where the general public has not been exposed to contemporary art.
It was part of the an auction of post-war and contemporary art, where sales totalled almost £100 million, including Francis Bacon's Study For Head Of Lucian Freud, which sold for £11.5 million.
The previous best sale price for a piece of Emin's work was £481,000, Mr Outred said.
Emin, who was made a CBE in the 2012 New Years Honours, said My Bed was made in her council flat in Waterloo and 1998.
A seminal piece in the Young British Artists movement, including Damien Hirst, it made her one of Britain’s most famous living artists.
Speaking at Christie's last week ahead of the sale, she said she still stands by her work which "changed people's perceptions of art".
Jussi Pylkkanen, the auctioneer and president of Christie's Europe, said: "People wondered why she was so engaged in the process of selling that object but for her that was her biography, that was a statement, that was a self portrait.
"It is quite unusual actually to have an artist so involved in their own works that for them it is a sort of step into the next stage of their lives."
Additional reporting by PAReuse content