January 13, 2011 / 12:15 PM / 8 years ago

Artists Gilbert and George "get away with it" again

LONDON (Reuters Life!) - Telephone kiosks, tourist postcards, advertisements for prostitution and the urethra are the subjects of the latest art exhibition from British art duo Gilbert and George.

“The Urethra Art of Gilbert and George”, on show at London’s White Cube gallery, features a collection of prints made from telephone booth sex cards promising a “medical and fantasy specialist” and “two-way corrective massage that bloody hurts”, alongside tourist postcards of Big Ben and bulldogs wearing Union flags, arranged to form a stylised image of a urethra.

The immaculately dressed Gilbert Proesch and George Passmore who live, work and have breakfast, lunch and dinner together every day in the same cafe and restaurants near their east London home, are among Britain’s best known artists.

The two, who often speak in tandem, told Reuters that their conservative views, polite behavior and meticulously well-groomed appearance allowed them to explore subversive subject matter without offending.

“It’s quite interesting because a young lady friend of ours took her mother to the Tate Modern exhibition with the plan to shock her and horrify her and the mother came away and said: ‘Well I’m not sure about all of the pictures but they do dress so very nicely.’

“So you see by dressing nicely you can get away with things,” explained Passmore.

“And that’s what we do. Get away with it,” added Proesch.


Passmore said they found the uniform anti-establishment view prevalent among artists and musicians “boring”, unoriginal and odd for people who were supposed to be creative.

“You know we don’t want to just fit into that boring old artists who are scruffy and are anti-Monarchy and anti-this and anti-that,” Passmore said.

The new show is their first “postcard” work in 20 years, but is not a return to using cards as a medium, rather the culmination of 20 years’ worth of collecting.

“We realized that we could create work of our sketches without us inside,” Proesch said. “So we were able to create nostalgic images of us walking the streets of London or getting drunk and all the feeling that we have inside ourself we could do with postcards.”

Each print in the exhibition consists of 13 postcards - 12 arranged in a rectangle with one in the middle - to represent “an angulated version of the urethra”, the significance of which the artists feel should be given it’s due.

“Everyone has a urethra, very few people know that word and even fewer can spell it. But we all know how to spell leg, arm, head, stomach, foot, but not the urethra which is vital,” Passmore said. “It’s also, it’s not only for urine it’s also for sperm so it’s the beginning of life as well.”

Living and working in London, the artists said the city informs most of their work and that they have grown with it over the last four decades.

“During our lifetime as artists it became more and more important, if you can imagine London in 1969 when we were baby artists, it was an entirely different city,” Passmore said.

“And we believe that we’ve been part of the change in life...and it goes on changing and we want to be part of that.”

The couple who married in 2008 said they are excited by the news of the upcoming wedding of Britain’s Prince William to long-term girlfriend Kate Middleton, but have not been invited.

“We love the whole royal family because they are above— they are like magic people, you know, like a flying carpet, they are untouchables and we’re quite excited,” Proesch said.

Editing by Paul Casciato

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