German Count Loans Emin’s $4.2 Million Messy Bed to Tate Museum

Jul 30, 2014 12:00 am ET

July 30 (Bloomberg) -- A German businessman and contemporary-art collector who bought British artist Tracey Emin’s unmade bed with rumpled sheets, empty alcohol bottles and cigarette packets for 2.5 million pounds ($4.2 million) is loaning “My Bed” to the Tate Museum.

Christian Duerckheim, who in 2011 auctioned a portion of his art collection for 63.5 million pounds, will loan Emin’s artwork to the museum for at least 10 years, the London-based Tate said yesterday in a statement. Details on when the piece will be displayed will be announced this fall, the museum said.

“I always admired the honesty of Tracey, but I bought My Bed because it is a metaphor for life, where troubles begin and logics die,” Count Duerckheim said in the statement.

“My Bed” sold at auction in London on July 1 at Christie’s. Emin’s dealer, Jay Jopling of White Cube gallery, bought it on behalf of Duerckheim. The price smashed Emin’s previous auction record of 481,875 pounds.

Emin, 51, who said she was aware of the negotiations between the collector and the museum, didn’t know for sure if the loan would go through.

“It was more like a wish of what we hoped might happen, and it did happen,” Emin said yesterday in a phone interview. “So it’s just brilliant. It’s fantastic.”

‘Absolutely Delighted’

Nicholas Serota, director of the Tate, said in a statement he is “absolutely delighted” about the loan, which will create “an opportunity for visitors to see a work that now has iconic status.”

Born in 1944, Duerckheim is a member of the German aristocracy and was until March chairman of the advisory board of Axiogenesis, according to the Cologne, Germany-based biotechnology company. He’s also worked as a banker in London and New York, according to his bio on Axio’s website.

Duerckheim is known for his collection of German and English contemporary art. Last year he donated 34 works on paper by German artists including Georg Baselitz, Blinky Palermo, A.R. Penck, Sigmar Polke and Gerhard Richter, to the British Museum.

In 2011, 59 lots from his collection at Sotheby’s in London tallied 63.5 million pounds. During the auction, records were set for five artists including Polke, Baselitz and Palermo.

Young British

Emin’s 1998 piece, which was auctioned for the first time, is one of the best-known works to emerge from the Young British Artists movement. Advertising mogul Charles Saatchi in 2000 bought “My Bed,” a work that sparked debate about the meaning of art when it was originally exhibited in London.

The piece is described by Emin as an “unconventional and uncompromising self-portrait,” the Tate said in its statement. It gives a snapshot of the artist’s life after a traumatic relationship and was shortlisted for the 1999 Turner Prize.

“My Bed” hasn’t been on display for more than a decade, Emin said.

“It’s going to be great for a whole new generation to see it,” she said.