Purple Art

[October 14 2021]

Gilbert and George at Frieze Masters, London

Gilbert and George profess that they no longer go to art fairs. But here they are at Frieze Masters in London alongside two of their works, STREET MEET and NAKED BEAUTY (both 1982) which sit as part of the Thaddaeus Ropac booth that revisits Documenta 7. Curated by legendary Dutch curator Rudi Fuchs and held in Kassel, Germany in 1982, Documenta 7 took a then iconoclastic approach, combining new works from a diverse selection of contemporary artists with classical pieces to create a clash of style, form and content that has resonated ever since across institutions and fairs around the globe.

JT – Documenta 7 took place almost 40 years ago. How were you approached for it?
George – Rudi Fuchs.
Gilbert – We knew him because in 1980 he was involved in doing our first big retrospective. He arranged it all and it went all over Europe. We started in Eindhoven, Bern, Madrid – all these places. He was and still is a big friend of ours, and he supports our art totally.  We have two people who have always supported us – Rudi Fuchs and Hans Ulrich Obrist. He is a big champion of us.

JT – When you look at the artists that showed in that Documenta show, it’s an incredible snapshot of what has become sort of a pantheon of contemporary art. What in 1982, would you not have imagined about the state of the art world in 2021? 
George – We always had a great belief in the future from being baby artists. We never suffered from self doubt because we’re two, so we always reassure each other.
Gilbert – And we had to be global already at that time. Already in 1972-73 we had to travel the whole world.
George – (We went) straight from Saint Martins to Amsterdam, New York, Sydney.
Gilbert – And Japan also. It’s like now. Art is global now. But we felt we had to do it at that time non-stop.

JT – And London as well – which is so much a part of this picture (STREET MEET), shot in the old Spitalfields Market – has changed hugely in that time. What are your reflections?
Gilbert – It’s all middle class! Middle class and arty.
George – Now everybody has a dog – that’s a new thing. It used to be run down. It was all yiddish-speaking when we were students there.

JT – I’ve heard that you’re building a Gilbert and George space near your house?
Gilbert – Yes, two minutes from our house.
George – As we speak, I hope the builders are there doing it. It’s going to be very beautiful. Three beautiful galleries and a beautiful courtyard, so that we can live forever.
Gilbert – It’s very fantastic with big gates that we designed. You will walk in on old cobblestones and inside it is very romantic, with old oak floors and wooden ceilings. From the outside it feels like we didn’t do anything. Nothing has changed on the outside – only when you go inside.
George – It’s next door to a very beautiful freehouse pub called the Pride of Spitalfields. And it’s rumoured that when the centre opens, they’re going to change the name to the Shame of Spitalfields.

Photo Jethro Turner

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