Overview

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Gilbert & George (b. 1943 & b. 1942)
Artist's Resale Right ("Droit de Suite"). Artist's… Read more Property from an Important Private European Collection
Gilbert & George (b. 1943 & b. 1942)

Red Morning (Hell)

Details
Gilbert & George (b. 1943 & b. 1942)
Red Morning (Hell)
gelatin silver prints, in sixteen parts
signed and titled 'HELL George Gilbert' (on the lower right panel); titled and consecutively numbered 'RED MORNING HELL 1-16' (on the reverse of each panel)
each: 23 ¾ x 19 ¾ in. (60.2 x 50.3 cm.)
overall: 94 ¾ x 79 ¼ in. (240.8 x 201.2 cm.)
Executed in 1977, this work is unique
Provenance
Private Collection.
Acquired from the above by the present owner in 2012.
Literature
C. Ratcliff (ed.), Gilbert & George 1968-1980, exh. cat., Eindhoven, Municipal Van Abbemuseum, 1980 (illustrated, p. 225).
Gilbert & George: The Complete Pictures 1971-1985, exh. cat., Bordeaux, CAPC Musée d’Art Contemporain, 1986 (illustrated, p. 105).
R. Fuchs (ed.), Gilbert & George The Complete Pictures 1971 - 2005, Volume 1 1971-1988, London 2007 (illustrated, p. 261).
Exhibited
Basel, Sperone Fischer Gallery, Gilbert & George: Red Morning, 1977.
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.

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Jeremy Morrison
Jeremy Morrison

Lot Essay

‘We don’t have to travel the world to find subjects, because we’re just looking for the subjects that are inside you. What are your hopes or fears about the people on the corner, the church, the sky, the police, the wet pavement?’ GILBERT & GEORGE

‘We felt that Britain was becoming communist, all red. So we did these Red Morning pieces, they were based on that’ GILBERT

‘We began to dream of a world of beauty and happiness of great riches and pleasures new of joy and laughter of children and sweets of the music of colour and the sweetness of shape, a world of feeling and meaning a newer better world, a world of delicious disasters of heartrending sorrow, of loathing a dread a world complete, all the world an art gallery’ GILBERT & GEORGE



An outstanding contribution to the history of Minimalist, Conceptual and Performance Art, Gilbert & George’s five-decade relationship as a single artist has redefined the connection between art and life. However their early adaptation of photography as their chosen medium has also arguably impacted on attitudes towards photography as an artistic medium. By putting multiple photographic prints together in a monumental collage, Gilbert & George were able to create large-scale compositions the like of which had never been seen before. For the first time photography could be seen in direct conversation with painting, and Gilbert & George’s big themes and philosophies were given fittingly grand compositional presentation. It is in the Red Morning series of 1977 that their images were first blocked together and the pictorial composition became seamless and whole, paving the way for much of the large-scale single print photography we have seen over the past twenty-five years.

This was a pivotal moment in Gilbert & George’s career. The year was 1977, the Silver Jubilee of the Queen, but it was also a year rife with political and social unrest in Britain. The series’ title is a reference to the socialist movement which grew in Britain from 1976 to 1977. ‘We felt that Britain was becoming communist,’ recalls Gilbert, ‘all red. So we did these Red Morning pieces, they were based on that’ (G. Prousch, quoted in M. Gayford, ‘Interview’, in Gilbert and George, exh. cat. Galleria d’Arte Moderna, Bologna 1996, p. 97). However, Red Morning also refers more broadly to tensions that coursed through many aspects of English culture at the time, from economic di?iculties and police strikes to the anti-establishment punk movement. The series, which contains other works with titles such as Trouble, Killing, Scandal and Violence, conveys deep societal unease. Yet this challenging era saw an explosion of creativity: Vivienne Westwood and Malcolm McLaren were reinventing fashion; 1977 saw the release of the Clash’s debut album, as well as the Sex Pistols’ seminal record Never Mind the Bollocks, Here’s the Sex Pistols; Johnny Rotten growled ‘There’s no future / In England’s dreaming’, and the riotous punk counterculture blossomed. Situated at the dawn of Gilbert & George’s practice, Red Morning (Hell) shares in the punk scene's radical DIY creativity. Even leaving aside the work’s historical and political context, it is impossible not to recognise the sense of urban angst Red Morning (Hell) expresses: a particular type of dread born of living in an environment where there are forces at work larger than oneself, of feeling lost, trapped and without agency. Its impact is unflinching and direct, as visceral as the profanity and nudity in the duo’s more controversial works. Unafraid of confronting the darkest strains of contemporary reality, Gilbert & George expose our fears, worries and desires by demolishing the division between art and daily life. Red Morning (Hell) invites us to step into their world – ‘a world of feeling and meaning a newer better world, a world of delicious disasters of heartrending sorrow, of loathing a dread a world complete, all the world an art gallery’ (Gilbert & George, 1969, quoted in Gilbert and George, exh. cat. Galleria d’Arte Moderna, Bologna 1996, p. 27) – and to recognise this world, after all, as our own.

The Red Morning series is composed of seventeen mural-sized works. Red Morning (Drowned) is held in the permanent collection of Tate Modern, and Red Morning (Drowned) in the collection of the Philadelphia Museum of Art. Red Morning (Hell) stands apart from others in the group through its complete absence of red colour, resulting in a composition of austere monochrome impact. Rendering social commentary and self-portraiture on a monumental scale, it presents a 4 x 4 grid of sixteen photographs. A puddle, reflecting trees and buildings, occupies each corner; the four central windows contain views of towerblocks in the City; the remaining panels show Gilbert & George themselves against a blank background, isolated from one another, arms clasped nervously in front of or behind their bodies. The artists photographed themselves in the studio instead of the usual location of their Fournier Street home, and Red Morning is the only series in which they appear in their shirtsleeves, lending them a sense of vulnerability. The abutted-frame format, used so expertly in the present work to create an impression of claustrophobia and anxiety, was initiated with Red Morning, and would become an iconic hallmark of Gilbert & George’s practice. Through this groundbreaking compositional device and the artists’ keen eye for telling detail, Red Morning (Hell) conjures a powerfully ominous atmosphere from the simplest of means: the artists themselves, and their immediate surroundings.

Gilbert & George have lived together in a house on Fournier Street, Spitalfields, since 1968, having met the previous year at St. Martin’s School of Art. They regard themselves as one artist, their lives as total works of art, and the East End as a microcosm for the world. ‘We always feel that we never have to go far’, says George. ‘We don’t have to travel the world to find subjects, because we’re just looking for the subjects that are inside you. What are your hopes or fears about the people on the corner, the church, the sky, the police, the wet pavement? So you don’t need to go anywhere except just outside the front door for that’ (G. Passmore, quoted in M. Gayford, ‘Interview’, in Gilbert and George, exh. cat. Galleria d’Arte Moderna, Bologna 1996, p. 89). This anti-elitist sense of a universal artistic language, grounded in ideas and sensations that we all share, lends an instant appeal to Gilbert & George’s work. Their unique idiom stands apart from the avant-garde movements of their time: declaring their intentions with the slogan ‘Art for All’, they were brought together by a rejection of the clinical detachment of Pop art and Minimalism, and the cold prioritisation of ideas over form in Conceptual art. Indeed, the grid format they employ seems to riff on the Minimalism of the 1960s, flooding its stark framework with personality, image and feeling. They subvert the chill of Conceptual art by using real snapshots of their lives, making work as intimate as it is sophisticated. A work like Red Morning (Hell) is no statement of neutrality, but a richly resonant emotional vision.

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