The UK is known for its more agressive and lurid style of journalism; take, for example, the posters advertising the daily editions of the London Evening Standard: “CHURCH SERVICE HAMMER TERROR,” “SEX BEAST ATTACKS WOMAN IN HER HOME,” “MAN DIES AFTER LOVERS CLASH,” “TORTURE GIRL DRAMATIC ARREST,” and “NURSERIES ‘TURN TODDLERS INTO THUGS.’” Every day for six years British artist duo Gilbert & George stole the posters from shop windows on their way to dinner in East London, distracting the police or concocting elaborate alibis when in danger of being found out (it doubtless helps to be an older couple in matching suits). They eventually accumulated a collection of 3,712 of the posters, which they organized into subjects—“death,” “murder,” “tube,” “porn,” and so forth—highlighting the chosen word in red. The artists loom in the background, as they do alongside the Union Jack in their classic Jack Freak Pictures.
It’s been eight years since Gilbert & George’s last New York gallery show, though a retrospective of their work stopped at the Brooklyn Museum back in 2008. The artists were in town for the opening of the largest group of pictures they’ve ever made. Titled London Pictures, the series consists of 292 pictures spread across Lehmann Maupin’s 26th Street and Chrystie Street galleries, as well as Sonnabend Gallery.
Artlog sat down with the pair at Lehmann Maupin to talk about their work, the art of stealing posters, and life in East London.