Is “my bed” by tracey Emin art?


“My bed” doesn’t imitate anything, it is what it is; An unmade bed standing by a mess on the rug.


With this piece Tracey shares her bed in all it’s embarrassing glory, to show that she’s just as imperfect as anyone else. So, in a way you could say that it does represent a sort of imperfection. Although, what was the need to put it on display? There are many other ways to display a sense of imperfection in seemingly more meaningful or inspiring ways such as on appearance, to be rather obviousness in my example…An unmade bed hardly reassures me or shocks me into believing i’m normal, or that she isn’t so perfect as im sure no one believed she was.

The counter-argument is that “many works of art are not representational in this sense” Example being that a church does not represent the house of god, because it is the house of god. So taking aback from my over-thinking, does this represent a mess, or is it just a mess?

Or could it be that it infact does represent elements deemed as imperfect. As I go back into my over-thinking ways I see something in this now, that I hadn’t before.

Such as the bed itself; this could be representing a sense of laziness. The ciggerette buts and empty bottles of achohol could be some form of addiction. The tissues are a sense of weakness, the toy puppy is childishness or immaturity. The worn underwear, condoms and stained sheets are impurity. The whole thing is slobbish and unrefined. All elements that aren’t exactly applied to the deemed ideal of perfection.

It is art, according to this theory.

Neo-representational theory

The piece isn’t about anything, really. Given the brief description on it from the Saatchi Galleries, this is purely a piece to show a sense of imperfection.  It represents, but it isn’t about.


What we see is a mess, what it represents is Imprefection. The mess itself is not what expresses imperfection, it’s the contents of the mess that do.

Apparently, according to a secondary defination, their was a time in Tracy’s life where she was depressed, suicidal and remained in her bed for weeks, and that the state of this piece was the aftermath of her own personal mess of emotions.

The bed is to express imperfection in herself, we all make a mess and sometimes leave things untidy afterall, but to the extent of the mess and it’s contents shows issues, not simply not being the ideal of perfection. Although perhaps it was just an exaggeration, and it’s the contents of the mess itself that form the meaning behind it, not all of it as a collective.

The mess contains items such as stained sheets, worn underwear, empty bottles of alcohol and cigarette buts, which I believe does express a sense of inperfection.

Perfection is defined as being flawless and free of personal and physical faults. Perfection isn’t quite seen as someone who drinks excessively, smokes or untidy in anyway, as someone without signs of being impure or slobbish, which is everything the piece advertises.

So, I do believe that this is a piece of Expression. It expresses her imperfection, as the bed repesents a sense of laziness, and the contents of the mess althougher aren’t classed as being native to that of a perfect person.

So by this theory, it is indeed deemed as art.


On purely visual aspects Tracy Emin’s “My bed” is that of a bed, and a little bit of a mess. Without thinking of anything beyond that, such as representation and meaning, it is what it is. It’s medium is that of a display of readymades.

So by this theory it wouldn’t be considered art.


What do we, as the spectators react upon seeing “The bed”? Well that can’t be pin-pointed into any one offical answer, as we all experience things in different ways. Some may love it, others are unsure what to think, and some may experience a sense of outright anger (or the less drastic, annoyence) to it.

My personal thoughts and feelings of this piece when I first heard about it, first saw it, was a sense of annoyence and slight anger. To me this wasn’t art, to me it was ridiculous that it would have ever been deemed art. But since choosing it as a subject matter for these theories I’ve came to understand it and see it in a whole new light.

To the eye it isn’t too pleasing, but it isn’t disgusting either. It doesn’t really display anything in which to experience some form of feeling towards. If anything, it would have people unsure what to think…That is, without anything being said or explained about it.

So in light of this theory, it would not be considered art. A piece like this can’t be propperly experienced without something being known about it. On purely visual aspects it does nothing but confuse.

The Institutional Theory of Art

As an nominated piece for the Turner Prize back in 1999, and as had a lot of media attention. It’s been considered art by many and even considered to be art worthy of the an award.

Despite the criticism, the art-world considers “My bed” by Tracy Emin art, and therefore so does this theory.



“My bed” is defiantly an unconventional piece that doesn’t fit the mold of what classical art is. It’s part of the modernist era of arts and readymades, it rejects the classical knowing of art, being sculptures and fine oil paintings.


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