Lot 17
  • 17

Gilbert & George

200,000 - 300,000 GBP
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  • Gilbert & George
  • Carefree
  • ten black and white photographs in artists’ frames
  • each: 50.8 by 10.1 cm.; 20 by 4in.
  • overall: 231.1 by 55.9 cm.; 91 by 22in.
  • Executed in 1973.


Galleria Sperone, Turin

Private Collection, Europe (acquired from the above in 1973)

Sale: Sotheby’s, New York, Contemporary Art, 17 May 2000, Lot 24

Barbara Gladstone Gallery, New York

Acquired directly from the above by the present owner


Turin, Galleria Sperone, Gilbert & George: New Decorative Works, 1973

Bordeaux, CAPC Museé d'Art Contemporain; Basel, Kunsthalle Basel; Brussels, Palais des Beaux Arts; Madrid, Palacio Velazquez, Parque del Retiro; Munich, Städtische Galerie im Lenbachhaus; London, Hayward Gallery, Gilbert and George, 1986-87, illustrated


Carter Ratcliff, Gilbert & George - The Complete Pictures 1971-1985, New York 1986, p. 48, illustrated

Rudi Fuchs, Gilbert & George - The Complete Pictures 1971-2005, London 2007, p. 148, illustrated

Catalogue Note

Extending significantly more than two metres in height, Gilbert & George’s highly impressive ten-part photo-sculpture Carefree of 1973 is exemplary of one of their earliest canons of artistic collaboration: the highly-celebrated ‘Drinking Sculptures'. As exemplified in the present work, this corpus constituted an absolutely seminal archetype for their subsequent oeuvre. Formally incorporating a double self-portrait, Carefree epitomises the artists' collective ambition to erase the boundaries between art and life, as announced by their maxim "Our lives are one big sculpture" (the artists quoted in: Exhibition Catalogue, Bordeaux, CAPC Musée d'Art Contemporain, Gilbert & George: The Complete Pictures 1971-1985, 1986-87, p. x). Here the ten black and white photographs record the iconic duo’s drinking spree in a stereotypical London pub, revealing erratic details of the traditional tavern flooded with daylight and narrating a heady atmosphere generated between a staged event and social emancipation. The images act as glimpsed windows onto the same frozen scene, trapping the twin protagonists between union and fragmentation as the viewer is drawn into an arena simultaneously devoid of inhibition and tempered by the all-consuming pathos of their Living Sculpture.

Subtly conflating measured sobriety with the evocation of an unreserved binge, the warped photographs become themselves chaotic vestiges of temporal and spatial disorientation. The scene consists of Gilbert & George standing in a bar, dressed in their immaculate heavy suits, white shirts and ties. 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 quoted in: "The Laws of Sculptors", in Gilbert & George 1968-1980, Eindhoven 1980, p. 51). Here, however, the title Carefree functions somewhat at odds with the artists’ composed formality, and suggests the principle of duality that is so central to the 'Drinking Pieces'. Gilbert explains: "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). Nevertheless, Gilbert & George emphasise that they are not interested in 'documentary': for them the concerns of life cannot be separated from the concerns of art. Insistently subverting attempts at easy categorisation of their output they have declared: "None of our works are documentaries. They are thoughts, spiritual" (the artists quoted in: Gilbert & George: the Complete Pictures 1971-1985, London 1986, p. xxi).