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From S&M to Big Ben: Gilbert and George’s card trick comes up trumps

January 12, 2011

Artists unveil images of London seen through phonebox sex ads and tourist postcards

Gilbert and George Urethra Postcard Art

Gilbert Proesch (left) and George Passmore with their Urethra Postcard Art at White Cube in St James’s, London. Photograph: Lewis Whyld/PA

The truly disconcerting thing about the new exhibition by Gilbert and George – complete with telephone kiosk sex cards promising “medical and fantasy specialist” and “two-way corrective massage that bloody hurts”, alongside tourist postcards of Big Ben and bulldogs wearing Union flags, each group arranged to form a stylised image of a urethra – is how pretty it looks, like a Mother’s Union display of patchwork quilts.

“I know,” Gilbert giggled, “we got away with it.” “Again,” the more solemn George added.

Although every wall of White Cube’s large gallery in St James’s is lined to the ceiling with pictures, there was space for only a fraction of the 564 pieces the artists have made from the postcards they have been collecting for 20 years.

Over those years, the immaculately dressed pair – who live, work and have breakfast, lunch and dinner together every day in the same cafe and restaurants near their east London home – have become among Britain’s best known popular, critically acclaimed and expensive artists.

Occasionally a startled souvenir shop owner recognised the two men politely requesting 13 identical cards reading “Mum and Dad Went to London and All I Got Was This Lousy Postcard”. Usually, George said, they just asked hopefully “stamps?”

The phonebox sex cards were trickier. When they saw one they liked – “Luke man 2 man horny fit lad 27 years” – they would dive in and grab it, but would then have to scour the area looking for 12 more. “Transexual Linda new in town” must have found business collapsing as all the ads within half a mile disappeared.

Read more at:  S&M to Big Ben

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