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1 Mar 2015
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Bourgeois and Emin’s Do Not Abandon Me
new york. What happens when two female art titans decide to work together? UK artist Tracey Emin has told The Art Newspaper that collaborating with the late Louise Bourgeois on a joint two-year project entitled “Do Not Abandon Me, 2009-10” was like “touching a piece of [art] history. Usually egos get in the way but this was a very different experience.”
Bourgeois first produced 16 gouache drawings on paper of male and female torsos, which were printed at Dye-namix studio in New York with archival dyes on cloth. These pieces were subsequently sent to Emin who added line drawings and handwritten text. The works were then reprinted at the same Manhattan studio; an edition of 18 sets (a suite of 16 prints) are available, as well as six artist proofs. The British artist chose the titles of the prints while Bourgeois, who died in May at the age of 98, devised the title of the exhibition.
“The project was all Louise’s idea,” said Emin. “The first time I met her was three years ago at her home in Chelsea, New York. She was very formidable and having asked me how long I had been coming to New York, said loudly in French: ‘Why haven’t you come to see me before?’ She showed me a video of [the late critic] Stuart Morgan who was a good friend to both of us. He was convinced we’d like each other.”
She also said: “It’s an accolade as I feel Louise was literally holding a baton that I should take, just in terms of passing the work on to me. Not many people want to collaborate with me.” But she initially found the venture daunting. “I was first thrilled but then anxious. I carried the images around the world with me, from Australia to France, but I was too scared to touch them.”
The themes of sexuality, birth and emotional dependence nonetheless united the duo. “She was very intellectual and academic but she was also a mother,” said Emin. “Female artists today are all on a similar level but she had 40 years more experience, she was of a different generation. But surprisingly there’s so much lightness in the [new] imagery, like air.”
Brian Rumbolo, the director of Carolina Nitsch, says that both women are known for their confessional writing and autobiographical subject matter, the use of fabric and textiles, and the depiction of the human body. “The show is important [as] collaborative works in the art world are rare and when they do exist are usually by peers or friends of the same generation (unlike Tracey and Louise),” he says. Rumbolo declined to provide the price of the works but stressed that “we would love [some sets] to be acquired by museums”.
Emin recalled how Bourgeois perused the finished pieces sat up in bed at her Manhattan residence. “She was very excited about finally seeing the works,” she said, adding that the thematic and stylistic affinities mean that the prints look as if they have been made by one hand, rather than two.
“Do Not Abandon Me” will travel to Hauser & Wirth Colnaghi, London, next year. Gareth Harris
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