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Tracey Emin’s Bed Sells for Record $778,900 in London

Tracey Emin Bed
"To Meet My Past" (2002) by Tracey Emin. The four-poster bed with mattress, applique linens and curtains is part of the Charles Saatchi collection and was auctioned to raise funds for his gallery. Source: Christie's Images Ltd. via Bloomberg

A Tracey Emin bed sold last night in London for $778,900, a record for the artist.

Emin’s four-poster, covered with inscription-embroidered linen, was the top item in one of the events during a hectic schedule of Frieze Week auctions.

The bed was included in a Christie’s International sale that raised a total of 3.1 million pounds ($5 million) in aid of the London-based Saatchi Gallery’s policy of free entry. All the 50 large-scale works found buyers after being offered without reserves or estimates.

Dating from 2002 and titled “To Meet My Past,” the brass bed achieved a formal price of 481,875 pounds with fees. It was bought by a European bidder in the room who declined to give his name to Bloomberg News. Emin’s U.K. dealer White Cube was among the underbidders. The artist’s more famous and much messier 1998 “My Bed” remains in the Saatchi collection.

The three main auction houses are offering more than 900 works of contemporary art this week, luring the collectors who have gathered in London for the Frieze Art Fair, Frieze Masters and other satellite events.

Buyers are on a tight schedule. Christie’s event had barely finished before bidders had to rush along Bond Street to Sotheby’s, where more contemporary art was being sold.

Amid a concentration on younger artists, the star lot at Sotheby’s was Glenn Brown’s monumental 1994 canvas, “Ornamental despair (Painting for Ian Curtis),” estimated at 2 million pounds to 3 million pounds.

Cult Dali

Brown’s dramatic sci-fi inspired paintings have a cult following with wealthy collectors after “The Tragic Conversion of Salvador Dali (after John Martin)” sold for a record 5.2 million pounds at Sotheby’s in June 2012.

This latest painting, showing a space ship leaving a stricken meteorite, had been inspired by an illustration for an Isaac Asimov novel. It sold for 3.6 million pounds with fees to a telephone bidder. The unidentified seller had bought the work at auction for just 32,900 pounds in 2002.

Sotheby’s sale raised 21.5 million pounds from 47 lots, 81 percent of which were successful. The presale estimate was 22.7 million pounds to 32.3 million pounds.

The previous evening at Sotheby’s, while Phillips was holding its own contemporary sale, 1.3 million pounds was raised for the Mimi Foundation, a charity founded by the Swiss collector Myriam Ullens.

The most successful of the eight works donated by contemporary artists was Yan Pei-Ming’s “Portrait of H.R.H. the Prince of Wales.” This first-ever painting of the U.K. royal by a Chinese artist sold for 302,500 pounds. Proceeds will be divided between the Mimi Foundation and the Prince’s Drawing School, said Sotheby’s.

Muse highlights include the New York and London weekend guides, Scott Reyburn on the art market, Lewis Lapham on history, Jeremy Gerard on U.S. theater and Amanda Gordon’s Scene Last Night.

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