Saatchi Is Selling Another Seminal Tracey Emin Installation

Is he shamelessly capitalizing on the artist's rising market?

Exorcism of the Last Painting I Ever Made, the sprawling installation that Tracey Emin created during a frenzied three-week period in 1996, is set to hit the auction block during Christie’s London Contemporary sale, on February 11.

The work is being sold by Charles Saatchi, who bought it in 2001 for £108,250. Christie’s has placed a presale estimate of £600,000-800,000 on the work. The collector was one of the earliest champions of Emin, considered the “bad girl” among the YBAs. An artist loved and derided in equal measure for her personal antics and explicit works (see Tracey Emin’s Dejection Is Becoming Too Predictable and Tracey Emin Says Female Artists Can’t Have Kids).

Emin created the piece as a performance at the Stockholm gallery Andreas Brändström, staged with the goal of ridding herself of the huge anxiety she felt towards the medium of painting. She worked naked, with visitors able to get a glimpse of her doings through lenses on the gallery walls.

The result of such flurry of work were 100 paintings, drawings, and body prints à la Yves Klein, which she displayed as an installation alongside a hoard of personal items used during the period, such as CDs, newspapers, and food wrappers.

“[Emin] thought she would then burn everything and have a pyre, leave everything in dust at the center of the gallery,” Christie’s specialist Katharine Arnold told the Guardian. “By the time she’d got to the end of the three weeks, she loved everything that she’d made–she just had to keep it. It became a cherished part of her practice and her history.”

The installation was the subject of a big exhibition at the South London Gallery only a year later, where it was shown alongside her famous (and equally candid) installation Everyone I Have Ever Slept With 1963-1995 (1995).

This is the second high-profile work by Emin that Saatchi has sold through Christie’s in less than year. The move has made many wonder if he has lost faith in the artist who he unwaveringly supported, until recently.

In July 2014, Saatchi sold My Bed (1998)­ for a whopping £2.5 million, considerably above its presale estimate of £800,000–1,200,000. He had purchased the work at Christie’s in 2000 for £150,000. The result propelled Emin to the list of most expensive living artists (see Christie’s Rides Tracey Emin’s Bed to £99 Million Night).

The buyer, Count Christian Duerckheim, announced he would lend My Bed—a piece that won Emin a Turner Prize nomination—to Tate for a period of 10 years (see Critics Demand Tracey Emin’s Bed Goes to Museum and Tracey Emin’s Bed Heads to Tate).

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