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His and hers

The idea: gather some of the "the world's most important artist couples" - including Richard and Jane Wentworth; Rem Koolhaas and Madelon Vriesendorp; Antony Gormley and Vicken Parsons; Neo Rauch and Rosa Loy; Gary Hume and Georgie Hopton - and ask them to collaborate on a piece of work for an exhibition. Call the exhibition "Sweethearts" and arrange the artists' names in a pink heart on the publicity material.

The reality (Hume and Hopton were asked the same questions in separate conversations on the phone - Hume from New York, Hopton from London):

Hopton It's a little tricky, and not because it wasn't a nice idea. It's a lovely idea, in theory.
Hume I didn't want to do it. Because it just seemed a huge amount of pressure, for what?
Hopton It's a little more difficult because Gary and I do work independently. I have collaborated with people in the past really happily and smoothly, but it was always initiated by me. Gary and I have never collaborated.
Hume Me and Georgie pick up a plank and, like Laurel and Hardy, I go in one direction and she goes in another, both absolutely convinced we've got the perfect solution to a problem. I've spent quite a lot of energy making sure I'm left alone and that my studio is completely private. Georgie pops in, but it's not a place that belongs to us, it's mine. And I absolutely love that; I don't want her there, I don't want anybody there.
Hopton I gave Gary some of my photographs and I thought, "He'll half finish them and give them to me to work on," but he ended up looking at one of the photographs and making three paintings from it. So, of course, you can imagine that I said, "Well that's not very collaborative."
Hume She said, "Why haven't you done what I wanted you to do?" and I said, "Because I don't want to do it." And she said, "Well thanks a lot. What am I supposed to do?"
Hopton He dutifully handed over three drawings to me and then I worked on them in the privacy of my studio. I loved the paintings he did in response to my photographs, and he was thrilled with the collages I made with his drawings so that's what we've got.
Hume I said, "I've made you three really difficult drawings that I couldn't make paintings from, and if you can pull anything out of them, well good luck . . ." And she wasn't that happy, but she did her best.
Hopton The two of us really love to be alone in the studio. It's not that we don't like each other's company; we do, but we have this house in America and we spend an awful lot of time alone together there, and we're blissfully happy and more in love than we ever are here, because when we're here we're so busy we rarely see each other.
Hume I know that her work is absolutely hers, and mine is absolutely mine. We're alone making it . . . I like being alone making things. It's the great pleasure of it.

“Sweethearts" is at the Pippy Houldsworth Gallery, London W1, from 21 March to 21 April

Sophie Elmhirst is features editor of the New Statesman

This article first appeared in the 26 March 2012 issue of the New Statesman, Mission impossible