Tracey Emin returned to New York last Saturday night for her first show here since 1999, inaugurating Lehmann Maupin's new Rem Koolhaas space on west 26th Street.
Like L&M's last Koolhaas space in SoHo, the new digs have an Alice through the Looking Glass quality -- one pill makes it larger and one pill makes it small. A series of interlocking rabbit warrens showcase Emin's new work, formally and thematically no different, better or worse than everything Tracey's done before.
There's a perfect little bed, nicely fitting for Lewis Carroll's heroine, and the usual assortment of retardaire, spastic drawings, typical of Tracey's catatonic fear of drawing, speaking, thinking and all things rational.
When David Bowie introduced us to Tracey three years ago, we then told her, "You couldn't get arrested in New York." Now, she would barely be allowed to buy a Happy Meal.
Tracey herself, as she always is on her once-a-decade trips across the pond, was sober, gracious and winning towards the stars like John Waters, Matthew Marks, L&M's own Julian LaVerdiere (whom we hope removes the roof, as promised, for his November show in the KoolHouse) and New York Times Magazine supermodel Cecily Brown, who visited her.
More intriguing than her installation is Emin's most unusual mouth, a seductively languid pelican's beak of saucy relaxation, poor dentistry and careless living. It's her most erotic feature.
Short of losing a pet in the 11th Avenue traffic, it's hard to imagine what Tracey can do to ever make a real impression on New York. But at least we can cherish the school-girlish sweetness she adopts when she's here -- all the BBC gets are drunken interviews.
Perhaps a benighted Tracey should settle in the Big Apple, get married and become a veterinarian.
Then, in 30 years, she can have a reconsideration retro at the DIA, like Bridget Riley or Jo Baer.
Tracey Emin, "I Think It's in My Head," Sept. 21-Oct. 19, 2002, at Lehmann Maupin, 540 West 26th Street, New York, N.Y. 10001