MAKE THAT G & G, not D & G

"It Shall Be Written", Gilbert and George 2008

... a fortnight or so ago I was lucky enough (and I do really consider myself lucky to have a job that opens up such opportunities of meeting truly marvellous people) to go to Linz and interview Gilbert & George for the newspaper - right before opening of their exhibition JACK FREAK PICTURES at Lentos Museum (the show is on until early October). Sure enough, Gilbert & George turned out to be two perfectly well groomed, polite and yet original elderly gentlemen, with who I had a chat of approximately 45 minutes. We talked about them considering themselves as the "fairy godmothers" of the contemporary art scene in Great Britain, and about how bit the international art circus has become, and about a person like Charles Saatchi, who, would you believe it, never bought a Gilbert & George painting ...

George: Mr. Saatchi, yes indeed, we have the great distinction of being among the artists he never bought. Very few of our colleagues can say that. It took us years to realise that this is a distinction. People used to come to London to see us and they'd say, which pictures does he own? And we were very embarrassed to have to say: Not one.

Would you like to keep it that way? Or would you sell him a painting if he approached you?
We would probably try to avoid it, very politely of course. Gilbert: But not at all costs. We're quite amazed by the success that he has. Today he shows totally unknown artists from all over the world, and he has a public beyond belief, more visitors than all the big museums. George: His collection is on its way to becoming some kind of circus, people go there who would never normally go to see art, and then they go, it's a different public.

I also liked it when they told me what life is like in London's East End, the part of town where they live and that has become very fashionable in the past few years. Sometimes they are even photographed by tourists who like their looks but do not necessarily recognise them:

"Toynbee Street", Gilbert & George 2008

You once said that the East End, to you, is a microcosm containing everything and anything that's important in society on the whole?
Gilbert: Yes, everything is there, it's such an extraordinary mix, you've got all the bankers, you've got the Bangladeshes, the artists, musicians, tramps, drug addicts, Russians and Romanians now, queuing up for food, sexual dissidents. And it's been changing a lot recently and is still changing, it's become very fashionable. It would seem like every photo shoot has to take place in the East End of London now, in our street.
Is that how you ended up making a guest appearance in a German musician's video - without prior casting, he just passed by and filmed you, right?
George: Yes, oh I remember that, you're right, he didn't know who we were at first. Gilbert: It's actually very interesting because a lot of times the fashion interested people from Japan who come to the East End are fascinated by what we look like, they don't know who we are but they take our picture.

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