For her contribution to the Manchester International Festival, Tracey Emin has announced plans for a collaboration with Louise Bourgeois, who she describes as her “hero” in a recent Guardian op-ed. To get past the hurdle of Bourgeois no longer being alive, Emin will employ a close reading of Hans Ulrich Obrist’s 2004 tome Do It, in which 165 venerated artists provided instructions on how to reproduce their work. Even though the results will fit the definition of collaboration narrowly — a far cry from the genuine two-woman jobs that Hauser & Wirthexhibited in 2011 — the idea of seeing both minds at work is intriguing, and, given the tone of Emin’s op-ed, pretty damn poignant.
Anyone who has seen the box office revenue of the Expendables franchise knows the powerful draw of the supergroup. Fans of either sculptor A, painter B, installation artist X, animator Y, or any combination of the four are bound to show their support when given the chance to see those artists together. The moment of collaboration is treated like a summit, and the final product is bound to remain in the long-term canon of either artist, even if it lacks any real intellectual or aesthetic bite when examined closely. Here are a few more examples that memorably hit or missed the mark.
2. Andy Warhol and Jean-Michel Basquiat
After meeting Warhol in 1980 and being nudged by Swiss dealer Bruno Bischofberger, Jean-Michel Basquiat entered into a collaborative relationship with the artist that lasted until 1985. The products of their relationship showed everything that can be admired and refuted in 1980s Pop art: the paintings sought to dissolve the hierarchy separating street art from fine painting, and to take Hollywood’s aspirations of monumentality to ground level.
Abstract Expressionism is generally described as a one-person (and mostly a one-man) game, so in his openness to the aesthetic needs and sensibilities of others, Robert Rauschenberg stands out. He contributed this “money thrower” to an installation for an exhibition of Tinguely’s work in the garden of the Museum of Modern Art that doubled as his coming out party in New York. At a certain point, the toaster that Rauschenberg had designed to throw silver dollars into the audience caught fire, adding danger and suspense to the outcome of their artistic relationship.
Apprehensive at the thought of having his pure artistic work co-opted for decorative or design purposes, Rothko reacted warily when he was commissioned by the Menil family to build a meditative space to fill with his paintings. Although the process was bitter (Rothko clashed with the architect Philip Johnson, and committed suicide before the project was completed), the outcome remains a monument to his creative genius, and attracts 55,000 visitors a year.
5. Luis Buñuel and Salvador Dalí
Dalí was no enemy to inter-media crossovers, and got along famously with fashion designer Elsa Schiaparelli, but it was with filmmaker Luis Buñuel that he appeared most comfortable. The two men were devoted imagists of the Surrealist school, and with Un Chien Andalou (1929), they were able to make a short film that took the free-association style of Freudian language to its aesthetic limits.
6. Björk and Matthew Barney
The only logical product of a collaboration between married partners Matthew Barney and Björk is their feature-length, insanely ambitious, and willfully opaque Drawing Restraint 9 (2005). Directed by Barney and featuring Björk’s soundtrack, the story follows the couple as they evolve from a long chain of species and metaphysical stati.
While Gerhard Richter’s sales performances continue to baffle at auction houses around the world, his one-time partner Blinky Palermo is just arriving at his appropriate level of appreciation. Dominated by a construction-paper yellow, their Teflon from 1971 is an exemplary product of their common sensibilities, at once affirming and mocking the colors and streamlined look of post-war consumer culture in Germany.
Most people recognize Chuck Close by his classically pixellated, universally admired rendering of the iconic 20th-century composer. Building on the emphatically repetitive motifs of his art-making style, Phillip Glass returned the tribute by composing Philip Glass: Up Close as an audio accompaniment to Chuck Close Prints: Process and Collaboration when it was exhibited at the Metropolitan Museum’s exhibition in New York.
Lee Miller is regularly described in back-of-the-envelope art historical stubs as a “muse” of Man Ray’s, which is a shame, since it sells short the tremendous influence she had on the Surrealist school of contemporary photography. This included not only her husband’s work, but also contemporary practitioners like Cindy Sherman and fellow self-portraitist Francesca Woodman.
The conversation about the relationship (professional and otherwise) between Robert Rauschenberg and Jasper Johns has been particularly fraught in the aftermath of the MoMA exhibition Johns and Rauschenberg, which was on display in the winter of 2013. Many historians view the proto-Conceptualist work Erased de Kooning Drawing as a collaborative work, and the fact that the two men were involved romantically is beyond dispute, but somehow, it went unspoken in the museum’s wall texts, leading Mark Joseph Stern atSlate to accuse the museum of “putting artists back in the closet.”