Tracey Emin exhibitBefore Helen and I headed to the Tracey Emin art opening at the Lehmann Maupin gallery on the Lower East Side, I worried we’d not be able to get in. I envisioned swarms of black-clad waifs with peroxide pixie cuts and piercings lining the streets. And me sticking out like a sore thumb in my summer dress.

Well, perhaps I would have stuck out like a sore thumb – if there’d been people there.

Helen wanders the lonely gallery

Helen wanders the lonely gallery

As Emin is so renowned, I’d expected queues, champagne and ‘oh dahhling’s. But in fact, Helen and I pretty much had the run of the place – taking our time looking at the beautiful ink drawings and then shrugging our shoulders and leaving.

The gallery had said Emin would be there. To be fair, our downfall was probably that she also has an opening night at the gallery’s other location, in Midtown West, so perhaps she’d gone there first. Even in her absence, I don’t understand why this space was so empty.

But what a space it was. A really neat little gallery hidden from the road by a grey warehouse front and massive doors. Inside, the ceilings were high, the rooms light and the artwork sparse.

Tracey Emin exhibitTracey Emin exhibit

Emin’s work – scores of small, framed ink drawings – might have appeared repetitive at first, but they were extremely nuanced. Each showed a figure – sitting, reclining or hunched – caught in a moment of anguish. Despite there being so many, each was so different. The way the lines meandered or scratched magically changed the mood.

A favourite, which I thought demonstrated this really well, was the piece below. A woman sobbing on her chair, with the brush strokes almost falling like tears.

Tracey Emin exhibit
...compared to this one, with the caption: 'F***ed'

…compared to this one, with the caption: ‘F***ed’

Tracey Emin exhibit Tracey Emin exhibit

So while there was no Tracey, no obnoxious crowds, no rows of wine glasses and therefore no trace of the New York art opening experience I’d expected, there was some bloody great work. And I’m glad I wasn’t boozed on free champagne, otherwise I might have missed it.

Tracey Emin exhibit Tracey Emin exhibit