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Gilbert & George (B. 1943 & 1942)
Gilbert & George (B. 1943 & 1942)

Germania

Details
Gilbert & George (B. 1943 & 1942)
Germania
signed, titled, numbered consecutively and dated 'Gilbert + George Germania 1980 1-21/21' (on the reverse)
21 hand-coloured photographs in artist's frames
71 x 138.7/8in. (181 x 352cm.)
Provenance
Galleria Christian Stein, Milan.
Literature
'Gilbert & George, The Complete Pictures 1971-1985', Stuttgart 1986, p. 164 (illustrated in colour).
W. Jahn, 'The Art of Gilbert & George or An Aesthetic of Existence', London 1989, p.324 (illustrated in colour).
Exhibited
So Paulo, 16 Bienal de So Paulo, 'Gilbert & George', 1981.

Lot Essay

'Germania', 1980 deals with one of Gilbert & George's most recurring themes: from the 'Human Bondage' exhibition at the Konrad Fischer Galerie in Dsseldorf in 1974, to a series of works from 1980, these two artists confront the viewer in a direct way with the dangers of nationalism. According to Wolf Jahn, "Contrary to the normal meaning of the word, this is not a celebration of the power of one nation; it conveys no rigid ideology of national identity..." Gilbert & George take as their main theme a concept of value which has come under increasing attack in the course of recent history. National and patriotic consciousness has been classified as undesirable because it is thought to rest on a 'wrong' impulse: the impulse, that is, to foist national identity on the human individual; the megalomaniac insistence on a unity which can only be maintained by force, and which blocks the individual's aspiration to be free. The consequence of this view is the prevalence of a deep-seated hostility to anything that bears the name of nationalism. National consciousness itself tends to be regarded as a thinly veiled ideology whose aim is the enslavement of the individual or the restoration of the evils of the past. (In: W.Jahn, 'The Art of Gilbert & George, London, 1989, p.304.) In 'Germania', Gilbert & George have chosen to portray nationalism by depicting the faces of what appear to be two young Germans, the precise intentions of the artists are unclear; are they portraying two 'Hitler Youths' or young Neo-Nazis, or is it merely a portrait of two boys from the street? The three yellow flowers in the centre seem to cancel out any negative implications. Comparing 'Germania' to 'Cocky Patriot' porduced at the same time, we see that the artists have opted to replace the two young faces with the British flag, and the flowers with the 'cocky patriot'. It is then not "the image or the world that represents a menace, but the presumed deeper historical significance on which the customary awareness of the image is based." (ibid.)
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