Christie’s has announced it is selling a particularly pivotal, not to mention large installation by one-time YBA tracey Emin called ‘Exorcism of the Last Painting I Ever Made’. The work is estimated to go under the hammer at £600,000 to £800,000. The work consists of 12 big acrylic-on-canvas paintings, seven body paintings and a grand total of 79 works of varying sizes on paper. Then there is the bed she slept on while making them, as well as a radio, newspapers and magazines, and CDs that also include the Beach Boys, the Clash, Pulp, Van Morrison and Leftfield.
Katharine Arnold, the head of the contemporary art evening sale where the work will be sold on 11 February, stated to the press: ““It was kind of amazing and a real breakthrough for her, she worked for three weeks flat out, and thought she would then burn everything and have a pyre, leave everything in dust at the centre of the gallery.
“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.”
This particular oeuvre of work was made in a Stockholm gallery in 1996 and is stated that it was conceived as a way of exorcising the fear and anxiety she then felt about painting, which the artist had given up six years previously. The three weeks at the Andreas Brändström gallery were a performance. Emin worked naked, with visitors able to watch through fish-eye lenses in the gallery walls.
The work is being sold by the collector Charles Saatchi, a patron of the Young British Artists movement, who bought ithe installation in 2001 for £108,250. The auction follows on from his sale last year of Emin’s seminal work ‘My Bed’, which sold for £2.5 million to the collector Count Christian Duerckheim, who then decided that he would lend it to the Tate for a 10 year period.
Arnold has stated that if it ended up in a public gallery Emin would want to be involved in the work’s installation. Although if the work is bought by a private buyer then they can install, or hang the large volume of pieces as they see fit. Arnold added, regarding the turning point for Emin, that: “When you see the work that she is creating at the moment and the confidence of her painting now, you really see its genesis with this body of work.”
The Exorcism work was shown in 1997 at the South London Gallery, along with artist’s infamous tent documenting ‘Everyone I Have Ever Slept With 1963-1995’. Emin went on to feature in the Sensation show at the Royal Academy, and in 1998 she created My Bed, which led to a Turner Prize nomination; all of which lead to the artist’s fame and fortune, of which ‘Excorsism’ was the turning point, the pivotal moment of regaining artistic confidence.
Emin said the title of the work referred to the last painting the artist created in 1990. “I felt at the time that, in doing the Exorcism, I was regaining my faith in painting and in art.
“Now looking back and unpacking everything, and seeing all the different elements, I can’t believe what great paintings I made. Looking now, I can see my enthusiasm for art and everything creative. I am really excited to see the work shown for the first time, not as an installation, but individually framed, hanging together with dignity.”