Lot 13
  • 13

GILBERT & GEORGE | Bugger

Estimate
700,000 - 1,000,000 GBP
Sold
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Description

  • Gilbert & George
  • Bugger
  • signed and dated 1977
  • hand-dyed gelatin silver prints, in artists' frames, in 25 parts
  • overall: 300 by 250 cm. 118 by 99 in.
  • This work is unique.

Provenance

The Artist
Private Collection, Paris
Anthony d’Offay Gallery, London
Acquired from the above by the present owner in 1999

Exhibited

Paris, Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris, Retrospective, October 1997 - January 1998
London, Serpentine Gallery, Dirty Words Pictures, June - September 2002, pp. 7 (in installation at Retrospective, Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris, Paris, 1997) and 39, illustrated in colour

Literature

Exh. Cat., Bordeaux, CAPC Musée d’Art Contemporain de Bordeaux; Basel, Kunsthalle Basel; Madrid, Palacio de Velazquez, Parque del Retiro; Munich, Städtische Galerie im Lenbachhaus; and London, Hayward Gallery, Gilbert and George: The Complete Pictures 1971-1985, May 1986 - September 1987, p. 114, illustrated in colour
Exh. Cat., Lisbon, Fundação Centro Cultural de Belém, A Arte De Gilbert & George, January - April 2002, p. 37 (in installation at Retrospective, Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris, Paris, 1997), illustrated in colour 
Robin Dutt, Gilbert & George: Obsessions & Compulsions, London 2004, p. 137 (in installation at Retrospective, Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris, Paris, 1997), illustrated in colour 
Rudi Fuchs, Gilbert and George: The Complete Pictures 1971-2005, Vol. I, London 2007, p. 281, illustrated in colour
Hans Ulrich Obrist and Inigo Philbrick, Gilbert & George, Art Titles 1969 - 2010, In Alphabetical Order, Cologne 2011, p. 12 (text)

Catalogue Note

“England was so run down in 1975, 1976, 1977, it was totally anarchic, with big piles of rubbish lying in Leicester Square, with super-flies and super-rats…”
Gilbert and George cited in: Michael Bracewell, ‘Writing the Modern World’ in: Exh. Cat., London, Serpentine Gallery, Gilbert and George: Dirty Words Pictures, 2002, p. 15.  Marking a pivotal and transformative moment in the career of Gilbert and George, Bugger is a monumental work from the artists’ definitive Dirty Words Pictures. Each meticulously apportioned in the artists’ signature manner into sleek minimalist grids, the Dirty Words Pictures are a tour de force of Gilbert and George’s praxis; indeed, many works from the series are held in prestigious museum collections such Cunt Scum in Tate, London; Angry in Kröller-Müller Museum, Otterlo; Are You Angry Or Are You Boring? in Stedelijk Van Abbesmuseum, Eindhoven; Cunt in Musée d'Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris; Fuck in Kunstmuseum Wolfsburg; Queer in Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen, Rotterdam; Smash in Arts Council Collection, London; and Suck in San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. Remarkable for its intensity of vision, this extraordinary body of work consolidates and advances the compositional grammar wrought by the artists’ preceding piece, Red Morning, to create the cornerstone of their inimitable style – a style that has influenced a whole generation of artists. Emblazoned across the present work’s lintel, scratched into a stone wall, is the word ‘Bugger’ which is split into five consecutive single frames: “by putting the word along the top, then something vertical down both sides, it looked like a door. A door of hell. We found much of the graffiti in doorways... We became interested to know what makes a person do that” (Gilbert and George cited in: Carter Ratcliff, Gilbert and George: The Complete Pictures 1971-1985, London 1986, p. XXVII). The artists’ obscene proclamations assume a twofold role in this series becoming both the source and title of the Dirty Words Pictures.  

Executed in 1977, a year of political and social unrest in England, Bugger points to the acceleration in social and cultural disaffection that was in part born of the anti-establishment punk rock movement that gained momentum in the same year. Stripping back romantic notions of the city, Bugger is infused with the vital sheen of contemporaneity, a timeless appeal that still thoroughly engages with our own modern-day society. Speaking of this moment Gilbert recalls, “England was so run down in 1975, 1976, 1977, it was totally anarchic, with big piles of rubbish lying in Leicester Square, with super-flies and super-rats…”; while George added, “Continental people saw England as a big pile of shit with a punk rock waving a swastika on top of it” (Gilbert and George cited in: Michael Bracewell, ‘Writing the Modern World’ in: Exh. Cat., London, Serpentine Gallery, Gilbert and George: Dirty Words Pictures, 2002, p. 15). Two columns of photographed newspaper spreads, trampled onto sidewalks, mark the borders of the present work, relaying punchy, political headline-slogans such as ‘Bet on Decent’, ‘Freedom Fighter’ and ‘Strike? Stuffed!’. They are crudely juxtaposed by photographs of Savile Row-esque shop fronts, and two black and white images of a modernist office block. As with other works in this series, these images are derived from the artists’ East London environs. In the centre is a primitive, bright red stick figure, flanked by portraits of Gilbert and George. Having introduced red into their oeuvre for the first time in 1974, the intense and iconic red interventions in the Dirty Words Pictures series come to evocatively accentuate the potency of the surrounding black and white images. As George elaborated, "We were looking for a more aggressive, more powerful image. Red has more strength than black. Black and white is powerful but red on top of it is even more so. It's louder" (George cited in: Carter Ratcliff, op. cit., p. XXIII).

The overwhelming scope and ambition achieved in Bugger, and the Dirty Words Pictures as a wider whole, demonstrates a new level of compositional rigour that is self-consciously transgressive, cementing aesthetic order within the chaos and conflict the artists experienced around them. The regular grid structure that was introduced in earnest in Cherry Blossom, 1974, has been tightened in the present work by eliminating the gaps between each component of the grid to give a more coherent, vital work that assumes a mural-like quality. The unifying architectonic structure takes on a double function and intriguingly also serves to break up the pictorial field, highlighting Gilbert and George’s central preoccupation with the fractured nature of the city. In doing so, the notion of the city that Gilbert and George present in Bugger is not a real one, but a mental conception of the metropolis as a duality where the crowd is at once an anonymous throng and a mass of highly individualised figures. As the artists themselves have said: “to walk the streets of London is to walk the streets of the world” (Gilbert and George cited in: Lisa Corrin, ‘Are you angry or are you boring?’ in: op. cit., 2002, p. 31).

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