Collection 1950s–1970s

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Robert Rauschenberg. Bed. 1955 458

Oil and pencil on pillow, quilt, and sheet on wood supports, 75 1/4 x 31 1/2 x 8" (191.1 x 80 x 20.3 cm). Gift of Leo Castelli in honor of Alfred H. Barr, Jr. © 2024 Robert Rauschenberg Foundation

Artist, Robert Rauschenberg: It was very simply put together, because I actually had nothing to paint on. Except it was summer time and it was hot, so I didn't need the quilt. So the quilt was, I thought, abstracted. But it wasn't abstracted enough, so that no matter what I did to it, it kept saying, "I'm a bed." So, finally I gave in and I gave it a pillow.

Curator, Ann Temkin: I think you can look at Bed as a work that literally wanted to mess up the idea of painting as something as pure and elegant, and instead, say that painting could be something that’s kind of bodily. I think he wanted the idea of a bed partly because you do think of a bed in association with all sorts of bodily functions, happy ones and unhappy ones. And there couldn’t be any more direct way of saying, art can be about our animal selves, not just our cerebral, intellectually, emotionally elevated selves.