GILBERT & GEORGE (B. 1943 & B. 1942)
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GILBERT & GEORGE (B. 1943 & B. 1942)


GILBERT & GEORGE (B. 1943 & B. 1942)
signed, titled and dated 'SLEEPY Gilbert + George 1985' (lower right)
mixed media, in sixteen parts
each: 23 7/8 x 19¾in. (60.5 x 50.4cm.)
overall: 95 3/8 x 79½in. (242 x 202cm.)
Executed in 1985
Sonnabend Gallery, New York.
Acquired from the above by the present owner in 1985.
C. Ratcliff (ed.), Gilbert & George: The Complete Pictures 1971-1985, exh. cat., CAPC musée d'art contemporain de Bordeaux, 1986 (installation view illustrated in colour, p. 31, illustrated in colour, p. 250).
W. Jahn, The Art of Gilbert & George, New York 1989 (illustrated in colour, p. 406).
R. Fuchs (ed.), Gilbert & George: The Complete Pictures 1971-2005, Volume I 1971-1988, London 2007 (installation view illustrated in colour, p. 520, illustrated in colour, p.526).
New York, Sonnabend Gallery, New Moral Works, 1985.
Special notice

Artist's Resale Right ("Droit de Suite"). Artist's Resale Right Regulations 2006 apply to this lot, the buyer agrees to pay us an amount equal to the resale royalty provided for in those Regulations, and we undertake to the buyer to pay such amount to the artist's collection agent.
VAT rate of 5% is payable on hammer price and at 20% on the buyer's premium.

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Louisa Robertson
Louisa Robertson

Lot Essay

'The 1980s ushered in a rich creative period for Gilbert & George. Their inner demons seemed less ravenous, an ardent universe unfolded, full of bright colours, in increasingly huge formats' (F. Jonquet, Gilbert & George: Intimate Conversations with Francois Jonquet, London, 2004, p. 105).

Sleepy is a commanding and colourful work that encapsulates the vibrancy of one of Gilbert & George's most exciting periods of artistic production. Undertaken for their ground-breaking New Moral Works show at the Sonnabend Gallery in New York in 1985 (and shown a year later to critical acclaim at the Hayward Annual at London's Hayward Gallery) Sleepy is an outstanding example of the monumental proportions of the large-scale photo-sculptures that have come to represent their iconic style. Vibrant stems of colourful flowers are combined with dangling springs of greenery dripping ominously with a mysterious blood red liquid. Inserted between these two elements, the face of a young man hovers, as if in deep sleep, above an image of the two artists dressed in the vibrant red suits. Although less overtly violent and sexual than much of their earlier work, Sleepy still retains the powerful visual elements that have made Gilbert & George's work so emblematic of its time. A departure from their earlier monochromatic and bi-chromatic works, Sleepy sings with rich chromatic intensity. Although seemingly a clear detachment from their earlier focus on the grime and misery of city life, this work still retains the strong allegorical undercurrents of subversion. Despite its outward exuberance Sleepy displays the darker side of society with a thought-provoking combination of images that indicates an uneasy juxtaposition of innocence and corruption.

Given their monumental scale and chromatic range and vibrancy, works such as Sleepy have been said to induce an almost hallucinatory state of reverence and awe. Recalling the potent power of the Victorian stained-glassed window, the images in Gilbert & George's work do appear to contain the same allegorical qualities as their historic counterparts. Indeed, their unique blend of painting, photography and sculpture conveys the pair's all-encompassing view about the totality of art, 'The true function of art,' Gilbert & George once said 'is to bring about new understanding, progress and advancement' (G. Prousch & G. Pasmore (eds.), Gilbert and George: The Complete Pictures 1971-1985, exh. cat., CAPC Musee d'Art Contemporain, Bordeaux, 1986, p. vii). As the title of the series to which this work belongs (New Moral Works) would suggest, works such as Sleepy serve to remind us that whatever progress we might think we might make, we should remain alert to the constant dangers inherent in life in contemporary society.

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