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In the studio with… Gilbert & George

8 September 2021

Since 1968, Gilbert & George have lived and worked together in the same house on Fournier Street in east London. ‘There is nothing that happens in the world that doesn’t happen in the East End first,’ the duo once said – and indeed the neighbourhood has provided the inspiration for much of their art, which, while often mischievous, confronts big themes such as sex, money and religion. The pair’s latest project, a photographic series titled ‘NEW NORMAL PICTURES’ and created over the past two years, documents their journeys around east London, from graffiti-painted alleys to the skyscraper-strewn financial district. It goes on view at Lehmann Maupin in New York on 9 September.

Where is your studio? 
In London’s Fournier Street, a French street built on a Roman cemetery. It is off Brick Lane, which has a church at one end and a mosque that used to be a synagogue at the other end.

What do you like most about the space?
It was built just after the Second World War and is wonderfully spacious and quiet. We can hear the school break bell and the following children’s hysteria through our Vent-Axia.

Camel Road (2020), Gilbert & George.

CAMEL ROAD (2020), Gilbert & George. Courtesy the artists and Lehmann Maupin, New York and Hong Kong, Seoul, and London; © Gilbert & George

What frustrates you about it?
Frustration is not our daily activity. The studio is dedicated to our Art.

Do you work alone?
We always create alone with our heads, souls and sex.

How messy is your studio?
Our studio is not messy. It is the world’s cleanest studio, where we can be as ‘dirty’ as we want in our pictures.

What does it smell like?
Gin and Spunk.

Battle Road (2020), Gilbert & George.

BATTLE ROAD (2020), Gilbert & George. Courtesy the artists and Lehmann Maupin, New York and Hong Kong, Seoul, and London; © Gilbert & George

What’s the weirdest object in there?
An elephant’s foot which serves as our champagne cooler. ‘Is it real?’ is a common question, especially from young people.

Which artistic tool could you least do without?
Our purposely built computer and rocking chair.

What’s the most well-thumbed book in your studio?
A copy of Spartacus International Gay Guide and Roget’s Thesaurus.

Do you cook in the studio?
Cooking has always been against our religion.

What do you listen to while you’re working?
Music has always been against our religion.

Do you ever sleep in your studio?
No. But we from time to time sleep walk in the studio.

Who’s the most interesting visitor you’ve had to your studio?
The ghost of John Bunyan.

Is anything (or anyone) banned from your studio?
Yes – the busy bodies, the do-gooders and the cynics.

‘Gilbert & George: New Normal Pictures’ is at Lehmann Maupin, New York, from 9 September–6 November.