It was an unruly mix of art and commerce as a flurry of bids rained down at the annual Lighthouse Gala, in aid of the Terrence Higgins Trust, at Christie's last Monday. Champagne glass in hand, Tracey Emin seemed determined to be the evening's unofficial compere, taking to the podium and waxing lyrical about the charismatic auctioneer Jussi Pylkkänen. "I'm making the most of standing next to one of the most attractive auctioneers not just in London, but the universe," she purred.
The mood among the well-heeled crowd was buoyant and competitive – save for a sombre-looking Jack Vettriano, who refrained from excavating his pockets, claiming there was no more room for any of the lots in his tiny flat.
No mind – among the rest of the guests, a series of fierce bidding wars broke out, and a smouldering Nancy Dell'Olio had to smile through gritted teeth as she was outbid three times. After missing out on an Emin watercolour and a Maggie Hambling acrylic, she lost again to the supermodel Yasmin Le Bon over a private recital by Jamie Walton; but after taking pity on the Italian, the cellist agreed to put bow to string for both ladies.
The evening ended as it began –with all eyes on Tracey, a wobbly Emin loudly slurring "I am sooo drunk." Although some groused over her omnipresent role, Christie's vice-chairman was quick to jump in and defend her: "The Gala is always a Tracey night – but the fact that she does this for us each year means we raise much more money, so we don't mind." With £250,000 raised, she certainly seemed to have done her "job".