Tracey Emin’s My Bed is to return to Britain after the German count who bought it at auction for £2.5m agreed to lend it to the Tate galleries.
Count Christian Duerckheim, who bought the famous work at Christie’s this month for a record sum for a work by Ms Emin, said he admired the “honesty” of the artist. “I bought My Bed because it is a metaphor for life, where troubles begin and logics die.”
An unmade bed strewn with empty bottles of alcohol, condoms and bloodstained underwear, the work was made in the artist’s Waterloo council flat in 1998. Intended to portray the artist’s feelings after the trauma of a broken relationship, it polarised opinion when shortlisted for the Turner Prize in 1999.
Speculation had been rife over the identity of the buyer since the auction on July 1. Born in 1944, Count Duerckheim is a businessman and philanthropist who began collecting art in the 1960s.
His collection includes works by postwar German artists Georg Baselitz, Gerhard Richter, Sigmar Polke and AR Penck. This year he donated 34 graphic works to the British Museum that formed part of the exhibition “Germany Divided: Baselitz and his Generation”.
Sir Nicholas Serota, Tate director, said the loan was still being finalised but would be for at least 10 years. “We look forward to displaying the work and are most grateful to Count Duerckheim for his generosity in creating an opportunity for visitors to see a work that now has iconic status.”
Charles Saatchi, the advertising entrepreneur and art collector whose buying decisions launched the careers of a string of young British artists in the late 1980s and 1990s, purchased the bed in 2001 for £150,000. He sold it this month to raise funds for his Chelsea gallery.
The work, which broke its auction estimate of £800,000 to £1.2m, was acquired by Jay Jopling, the White Cube gallerist, on behalf of Count Duerckheim.
Tracey Emin said on Tuesday: “Count Duerckheim has done a very generous thing. I have always felt ‘My Bed’ belongs at Tate. And now it will be. I cherish the moment to install it there. I could not be happier.”