Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Elegantly Dressed Gilbert and George

Gilbert and George are two people but only one artist. In other words they are like two bicycle wheels that form one bicycle. No one knows which one is the front wheel, Gilbert or George. To be physiologically accurate, they are probably more like a sideways bike in that they go everywhere together, and walk in step.

You don’t see much of Gilbert and George ordinarily, unless you live in the Brick Lane area of East London or eat at one of their favourite restaurants, in which case you see them a LOT. They are reclusive, except when they’re out – then they’re gregarious.

The reason for featuring them as this week’s Elegantly Dressed Wednesday offering is that, not only are they always immaculately turned out, they are having a major retrospective at the Tate Modern. This is something very special because British artists are usually only allowed to exhibit at the Tate Britain. Clearly, if you are both Modern and British, Britishness takes precedence. Gilbert is not actually British, he is Italian. But, as previously explained, the artist Gilbert and George is, in fact, British as all the best artists are.

In the last ten years, being both British and Modern has become very important. However, whereas there are any number of courses to teach us how to be British, only Kate Moss is seriously tutoring in how to be Modern.

The Tate Modern should really have been called the Tate Foreign as it only features artists who are not allowed to exhibit at Tate Britain because they are not British. Monet, who is in the Tate Modern, was never modern, even in his own time. However, The Tate Foreign doesn’t sound very nice and doesn’t really go with the New Labour ‘Cool Britannia’ image.

Gilbert and George, who famously don’t give interviews, are being interviewed all over the place lately. There was a show on one’s adored BBC last night and a big article in one’s beloved Guardian a week or so ago. I understand that Mr Choudhury at the Cash and Carry where they buy their PG Tips tea bags and jars of Nescafe has done a piece for Grocers’ Weekly and their favourite waiter Mehmet is writing something for this week’s edition of the Turkish paper Hurriyet as well.

It is so unusual for Gilbert and George to be separated that when I was eating at their favourite restaurant Mangal II in Dalston recently and Gilbert walked in ALONE, I got straight onto The News of the World which I have on speed dial should I see Victoria Beckham eat something or Pete Doherty stand up straight. It was a false alarm as George came in about two minutes later. I believe it is the longest time they’d been apart since 1971.

Gilbert and George could also qualify for naked Thursday as a lot of their art features them naked. This requires them to take their clothes off rather a lot. It stands to reason that at least some of those times will be Thursdays. Mostly though they go to work in their specially tailored suits. Their work mainly consists of them just being themselves which is not only genteel but jolly jammy into the bargain. To go to work they simply walk up some stairs and into a room full of drawers where they sit looking at pictures of themselves all day. I can’t think of anything more delightful.

Fournier Street, where Gilbert and George have a charming Georgian house, is in the heart of the fashion industry in London. In fact the street next to theirs is even called Fashion Street. Huguenot silk weavers lived in the area in the eighteenth century, Jewish tailors in the nineteenth and since then, Bangaldeshi leather jacket makers have called Spitalfields home. From the roof terrace of their house, Gilbert and George can see both Hawksmoor’s famous Spitalfields Church and The Gherkin. They prefer to do so whilst wearing Savile Row suits, which is why they are this week’s EDW nominees.

In celebration of this historic occasion, you can download a free copy of their latest work Planed for the next thirty-six hours from Of course you can download any of their work at any time free from Google Images but it is quite novel to have the artist’s permission to appropriate their work for a change.


Art by Gilbert and George


Ms Baroque said...

Excellent! Yes, they do annoy me but I think that would please them. And they are a complete fixture at this stage, of course. A work of art, if you like. An ornament.

I think it might be two houses knocked together, by the way - making it even more jammy than it was before.

That's so pants said...

Hi Ms B

Yes. In the documentary it did look very big indeed, even for a Georgian house. We know they're not spending their money on food so they're probably plowing it into real estate and tweed, of course.

R.H. said...

Why did you go to England.

(Full details please)

That's so pants said...

Hi R.H.

Welcome back. I thought we had seriously fallen out over art so I am very surprised to find you NOT having a crack at my Gilbert and George tribute. You should have a blog of your own you know Mr Markus Knowallus.

Anyway - here's the thing. I came to London in 1982 as part of an Indie Pop band. It was great. It would have been much greater to have been a success mind. Cut to 25 years later and I still think London's wonderful (except that it's in Britain, obviously). I spend about two hours a day practising missing it because I know that as soon it's no longer my home, the loss will be unbearable.

I also spend two hours a day searching the internet for homes in a certain part of Australia which I am not prepared to name in case it sparks a property boom and wondering if the real estate agent with the unusual name is someone I went to school with.

Does that answer your question?

Reading the Signs said...

I find them more interesting than their art. Or perhaps it would be more accurate to say I find the bits and pieces of their lifestyle creepily interesting and a touch mysterious. Not so much when they begin to speak.

Brighton house/flat prices are same as Hackney. Just saying, in case you have change of heart.

R.H. said...

Thanks, yes, it answers my question, but doesn't explain why you stayed there. It's a nice place to visit (in an overcoat)
but a gloomy place to live.

I'm sentimental, that's my trouble. I've been tearful about leaving the most appalling dumps, but after doing so, have never given them a thought. The only place I'm really sentimental about is Pentridge prison, my true alma mater. I went in for vagrancy as a seventeen year-old, and graduated wearing a pair of their woollen socks. I had a Masters in Burglary.

I've never heard of George and Gilbert.

If I had my own blog I'd give it my best -and do little else. Unfortunately.

That's so pants said...

Hiya Signs

I think the whole thing about Gilbert and George, and lots of other artists too, is that their whole life is the product. I'm no art historian but I'm thinking it started with Warhol. I like it. I like their work and don't mind that it's looked the same for forty years.

I don't even mind the commercialisation of it because it seems to be doing no harm. It's not, as far as I know, causing Indian farmers to suicide or contributing to global warming. If anything, Gilbert and George are doing exactly what the government thinks it's asking of all of us. They've contributed to diversity by moving to a predominantly Bangladeshi area and they seem to spend almost all their considerable income within the local community, thus making far more of a contribution to local sustainability than almost anyone else in Britain. Hoorah Gilbert and George. You should be prime minister.

That's so pants said...


I have a feeling you wouldn't like the work of Gilbert and George so it might be baffling to you why I've stayed in London as long as I have. The Gilbert and Georgeness of London is one of the reasons. I bought a beaver lamb overcoat from Camden market the first winter I was here. It remains one of the most stupid purchases of my life since the only time I ever wore it was in Russia. England just isn't cold enough for a beaver lamb coat.

There may be a place where you stayed for a long time that had the same magnetic pull on you, apart from Pentridge that is.

You do have your own blog, or at least the structure of one. I think I'd like to hear more of what Markus Knowallus thinks.

Ms Melancholy said...

Hey Pants, totally off topic here so hope that's ok. Just wanted to let you know that you were first nominated for the Thinking Blogger by Not Saussure back in March. Please don't ask me how I know, because I will then have to admit to my utter geekiness for remembering these things. I think you were in hospital, giving birth to eraser head at the time, so you can be forgiven for missing the nomination. Glad it came round again though. x

R.H. said...

I was forced to set up that blog in order to continue my career as a blog reply person, it's a sham, a giggle. Markus Knowallus is my shot at a sociologist blockhead named Mark Banisch. He runs a huge blog here called Larvatus Prodeo -suave name for a suave crowd- a crowd of feminists, prime ministers: assorted lapdogs holding cheap degrees from red-brick universities. Know-alls, in other words. They're outraged. Insulted, that the lower orders might actually know something themselves. What a laugh. They banned me of course.

Yes, there's another place, dear to me, a little wooden house with three rooms and no bathroom. A hovel, a slum. It's where I started out, and will finish.

Quink said...

Excellent. Quite excellent.

Ms Baroque said...

(banging forks on tables) Mar-kus! Mar-kus! Mar-kus! Mar-kus!

TSP, I'm as one with you on this except that I love not just London, but all of England. And Wales. Yes, r.h., it can be bleak, but it is MY bleak.

And you know I don't want you to retire to the remote Antipodes. There will be no Gilbert and George and indeed no Brick Lane there, and all your local knowledge will be wasted. I know, you can put it in a book. Rather than your life being a work of art, your works of art will be your work of art.

Well. That will be a bit recidivist of you.

That's so pants said...

Hi Ms M

I didn't know that about Not Saussure - who was one of my nominees interestingly enough. Yes, it would have been when I was in the Horrible Homerton. Thanks.

R.H. - Your fan base is building (see comment from Ms Baroque). You jolly little enigma you.

Hi Quink - you are the standard bearer so this is high praise indeed. Thank you.

Adored Ms B - I know. I KNOW. I am already bracing myself for two or three years of separation pain. But I like the wilderness as well and I have not spent nearly enough time surrounded by beauty. I'm kind of done with my nature being marred by blue plastic bags.

The decision has been made slightly easier by the availability of BBC and The Guardian on internet. I've really missed both whenever I've spent long periods of time out of the country.

Ms Baroque said...

Okay but don't expect me to make it easy for you!

That's so pants said...

Darling Ms Baroque

Wouldn't dream of it. But here's the thing. Every time I look out my window, someone's dumped one of those stupid fold in half single beds in my eyeline. This will be one of the things I remember most about Britain. Who is daft enough to buy those beds? For twenty-five years I've been looking at those crazy beds and wondering why. I need to do something more productive with my life.

R.H. said...

There was a huge controversy here years ago, hosted by the arts pages of The Age newspaper, as to whether or not some dork had made his death a WORK OF ART. It went on for weeks, with increasingly indignant letters scrawled off and published, along with (I suspect) a few cooked up by the editor as well, just to keep the thing going. I've no idea who won, but golly, it showed us provincials up good and proper!

Well Britannia doesn't rule the waves anymore, but its language rules the world. And rightly so. I love England too.

That's so pants said...

Hi R.H.

Most cultures ceremonialise death in some way that's artistic. In European culture it tends to be decorative - tombstones, epitaphs, flower arrangements. It's not a huge stretch to accept the act of death as artistic. I think of Robert Capa's iconic image of the falling soldier as a place where art and death meet quite comfortably. I don't mean that callously as it must have been horrible at the time for the family of the fallen soldier to see their loved one's death so publicly displayed. Capa captured a moment that he could have done nothing to change. That is one of the purposes of art.

I saw Lenin's corpse and he was curiously artistic, I think not least of all because he was in a museum.

I don't know anything about the case that you're talking about - I'd be interested to know the details.

R.H. said...

Well the case is obscure, it was at least ten years ago, but struck me as a fine example of academic blather. Twenty years of education and look what you get: robot slang. And egotism? Oh my goodness gracious golly me!- they'd give their own mothers up to the police, just to win a debate!

I don't trust iconic photos. Too many turn out staged. And there's the matter of news footage: the question of whether a camera crew should just film someone in trouble, or intervene to save them. Most times they just film.

Telling the truth is straight reportage. I always tell the truth, I haven't the imagination to make things up. But I do stretch it; I exaggerate, with choice of words. Someone else would do it differently. It's a point of view.

I try to amuse (I can't help it) while telling the truth.

R.H. said...

Well I suppose exaggerating is being imaginative, in a way.

That's so pants said...

I think there are probably clear instances where journalists can and should intervene to save lives. Disaster situations that are apolitical would be a good example.

War zones wouldn't be one of those instances. Journalists are only there to report, and if they chose to intervene, they would immediately compromise their neutrality and very probably cause multiple diplomatic problems.

This thread has departed quite spectacularly from EDW so I'd just like finish by saying that there are some military uniforms that are very elegant indeed - like naval whites with lots of spaghetti braid. Yo, A Few Good Men (and one good woman - even if she was played by Demi Moore).

R.H. said...

Yes well may I finish by saying it is now 10 am here and probably midnight in your town.

So goodnight pommy darlings, and be bold. Take courage that your loyal colonials wiped their bums on that dirty lowdown referendum to become a REPUBLIC and which was only wanted anyway by celebrity-crazed cafe society spivarses and their balding shaven-headed poodle dog boyfriends whose fossillised balls belong in museums!

(One must be discreet)

Stray said...

Oh! Ms Pants - G+G were my neighbours in Spitalfields for a few years and I used to love standing at the pedestrian crossing with them. I think they could never work out if I was a boy or a girl. They used to half give me the eye, which I was rather flattered by.

Indie pop band? Oh! Please please regale us with stories Ms Pants!

Are you a singer? A drummer? A guitarist?

You're soooooo cool. I knew you were cool, of course, but this definitely clinches it. You may possibly be as cool as Ms Melancholy.


That's so pants said...

Hi Stray

Hope you're feeling a bit better. Almost as cool as Ms Melancholy - high praise indeed. Perhaps we should start a thread for Gilbert and George encounters. Re indie pop 'career' - very occasional appearances on audio compilations, visual retrospectives, and even footnotes in books about more prosperous others keep sense of not wasting life completely alive. Think of how Richard Hell might feel and imagine he was feeling it in Surbiton rather than New York and you have a measure, I think.

Ms Baroque said...

Stray, I always say Ms Pants is the Debbie Harry of Hackney. Except that Deborah (as she now is) doesn't have a clever current affairs blog, and Ms P doesn;t (to my knowledge) carry a little lapdog with her everywhere she goes.

That's so pants said...

Ms B

What a lovely thing to say. Basket of air kisses coming your way dahling.


That's so pants said...

Hey all - Ms Baroque has opened this discussion up so please pop over to

to see where she's taken it.