Heads Up: Do not abandon me

Tracey, would you give me a hand for a moment?
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The Independent Culture

What are we talking about?

During the two years before her death, Louise Bourgeois collaborated on a series of works with Tracey Emin which are to go on display at the Hauser & Wirth gallery in London in February.

Elevator pitch

Art world's grande dame passes on the paintbrush.

Prime movers

Bourgeois, the Franco-American sculptor whose work was both deeply respected and provocative; Emin, either the natural inheritor of Bourgeois' mantle or a mere fame-chasing provocateur, depending on your point of view.

The Stars

The 16 collaborative works. Bourgeois painted a series of human torsos in a watery gouache, mostly featuring pregnant bellies and male members. She passed them on to Emin, giving her carte blanche with them. Emin – after lugging the paintings nervously around the world, "too scared to touch them" – eventually got doodling over the top, adding little line-drawings of figures or wobbly hand-written comments, which are also often rather rude.

The early buzz

The Art Newspaper, who interviewed Emin last year, reported that despite Emin saying that not many people actually want to collaborate with her, the "themes of sexuality, birth and emotional dependence nonetheless united the duo". But Charlotte Higgins, writing in a blog for The Guardian, asked: "Has Emin pulled off working with Bourgeois as an equal? Or do the words 'giant' and 'minnow' spring to mind?"

Insider knowledge

In 2005, Emin name-checked Bourgeois in her piece, The Older Woman, which included the phrase "I think my Dad should have gone out with someone older like Louise, Louise Bourgeois."

It's great that...

...the project was completed before Bourgeois' death, aged 98, in May last year. Emin took the canvases to her Manhattan bedside, and Bourgeois was reportedly very excited about finally seeing the finished works.

It's a shame that...

Emin's delicately cartoonish figures, snogging Bourgeois' watercolour willies, might prompt schoolboyish sniggers.

Hit potential

With just 16 images, it's hardly a major show, but a collaboration between two such iconoclasts was bound to be intriguing. Images such as a crucifix scrawled over an erect penis and titles such as When my cunt stopped living are sure to generate column inches.

The details

Do Not Abandon Me at Hauser & Wirth, 15 Old Bond Street, London W1 (0207-399 9770, hauserwirth.com), 18 Feb to 12 Mar.