Lot 10
  • 10

Gilbert & George

Estimate
140,000 - 180,000 GBP
Sold
133,250 GBP
bidding is closed

Description

  • Gilbert & George
  • A Last Drink
  • each: titled on the reverse
  • seventeen gelatin silver prints, in original artists' frames

Provenance

Private Collection, Belgium
Acquired directly from the above by the present owner in 1975

Literature

Carter Ratcliff, Gilbert & George: The Complete Pictures 1971-1985, New York 1986, p. 51, illustrated
Rudi Fuchs, Gilbert & George: The Complete Pictures 1971-2005, London 2007, Vol. I, p. 136, illustrated

Catalogue Note

Having resided in the same collection since shortly after its execution, A Last Drink by Gilbert & George is one of their earliest photo-pieces and a formative archetype for their iconic and incomparable artistic canon. Seminal to the widely-renowned and critically lauded 'Drinking Pieces' series, A Last Drink epitomises the artists' unprecedented ambition for life to make art, and art to make life, as announced by their maxim "Our lives are one big sculpture" (the artists cited in: Exhibition Catalogue, Bordeaux, CAPC Musée d'Art Contemporain, Gilbert & George: The Complete Pictures 1971-1985, 1986-87, p. x). Gilbert & George had invented the concept of 'Living Sculpture' soon after having met at St Martin's School of Art in 1967, an unprecedented artistic venture that continues to this day. Initially the self-styled twosome tested the expressive possibilities of various media, from charcoal to painting to performance to photography. By the early 1970s their creative fervour increasingly focused on a unique brand of self-mortification. Expertly recording their Living Sculpture, the extraordinary cycle of 'Drinking Pieces', initiated in 1972, is the perfect vehicle for the manifestation of the artists' self-conscious reclusive isolation. As epitomised by A Last Drink, the cycle records the heady atmosphere, stifling claustrophobia and drunken sense of social emancipation inherent to Gilbert & George's drinking sessions in antiquated London pubs.

Subtly conflating the propriety of a staged event with suggestions of an unreserved binge, the seventeen black and white warped photographs reveal distorted clues to describe the iconic duo in a London drinking den. The scene consists of Gilbert & George standing in a bar, dressed in their trademark suits, ties and polished shoes. As Living Sculptures, they are their own theme and material, exercising tight aesthetic control on themselves and abiding by their own 1st Law of Sculptors, decreed in 1969: "Always be smartly dressed, well-groomed relaxed friendly polite and in complete control" (the artists in: "The Laws of Sculptors", in Gilbert & George 1968-1980, Eindhoven 1980, p. 51).

As is typical of many of Gilbert & George's best works, the title is a subtle witticism and key to the import of the work. A common maxim of someone who has probably already had more than they should drink, 'a last drink' as an intention implies the type of insobriety that correlates perfectly with the effect of disorientation achieved by the images. As Gilbert has explained: "artists would get smashed up at night, but in the morning they would go to their studio and make a perfect minimal sculpture. They were alcoholic but their art was dead sober. We did the Drinking Sculptures as a reflection of life" (Gilbert in: Gilbert & George: intimate conversations with Francois Jonquet, London 2004, p. 88).

Gilbert & George make a point of using direct means to convey complex ideas, and A Last Drink is fantastically rich in thematic and narrative content. Their work is truly ground-breaking in the way it insists on dissolving barriers between art and life, between the artist and audience. In the 1970s, with the onset of impermanent performance and process-based art, the need for recording artistic events – whether 'documentary' or 'spiritual' - was keenly felt in artistic circles. This impulse became integral to the communication of Gilbert & George's artistic vision and their 'Art for All' conviction that art must strive towards social betterment. Pioneering a new art form, their work ignores the usual divisions between sculpture, painting and photography while also rejecting the modernist habit of seeing a difference between art and life. Framed by this contemporaneous context A Last Drink should be seen as the perfect tribute to the courageous artistic experimentation and invention of two exceptional young artists, combining performance, sculpture and photography in a way that no one else had dared to before.

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