My Bed by Tracey Emin.


The critics said that anyone could exhibit an unmade bed to which Emin replied “Well they didn’t, no one has done that”(Emin 2013) She went on to compare her bed to Munch’s bed in the museum in Norway  that was important because he had slept in it and how it was important as a personification of the artist.

She could have gone on to cite Whiteread, Rauschenberg, Sickert, Van Gogh, Munch, Degas, Blake Collier, Manet, Velazquez and Titian all of whom used the bed to great effect in some of their works. The bed is and has been a powerful symbol of birth, death, seduction and depression (Cohen 2018) and it has rarely failed to provoke controversy when employed as an artistic motif.

The bed in and of itself is a very private space and its use as a motif in artwork publicising the lack of privacy naturally gives rise to the feeling of exposure of a very private space to which people are unused to viewing, certainly in the presence of others which is why the bed as a motif retains its ability to shock the viewer.

If Emin was unaware of her artistic precedents, the critics ought to know better and treat her self portrait bed as the culmination of a long line of artistic representations of the bed, rather than pander to the masses and ridicule her artistic efforts.

Whilst on the subject of beds perhaps the most startling example of the bed as an artwork to its contemporaries is the Etruscan Sarcophagus of the Spouses where a woman is portrayed as equal to her husband, whilst common enough in liberated Etrusca, it must have horrified contemporary Greek and Roman viewers.



Tracy Emin- the South Bank Show (2013) At: Accessed 08 August 2019

Cohen, A. (2018) Tracey Emin’s “My Bed” ignored Societies expectations of Women At: Accessed 08 August 2019