Gilbert & George: The Banners at the White Cube Gallery

Gilbert & George,  The Banners ,  White Cube Gallery , 2015. 

Gilbert & George, The BannersWhite Cube Gallery, 2015. 

What’s the best thing to do on a cold Tuesday night? Expand your rude vocabulary of course, by seeing the ‘Gilbert & George - The banners’ show at the White Cube gallery in East London. 

The show comprises of 30 large-scale banners featuring 10 handwritten graffiti-like messages by the quirky duo, which follows their exploration of urban text and typography. The first line of text is ubiquitous to all the banners and reads: ‘ Gilbert & George say:’, denoting that the text following contains the artist’s thoughts and reflections. And boy do Gilbert and George have some strong opinions!

The messages vary wildly from the classic britannia anthem ‘God save the Queen’ to the more playful ‘Fellatio for all’. These messages are accompanied by some thought-provoking quotes such as ‘Decriminalise sex’ along with some anarchic and concerning messages such as ‘Fuck the planet’. 

The conflicting nature of the messages is reflective of the duo’s eccentricity and seems to divide the audience’s responses; some respond positively to the liberating and worry-free tone of the banners, whilst others become offended and are concerned by the blown-up text. I am personally caught in the middle; I quite like the banners even though I am slightly problematised by some of them. It is as if Gilbert & George aim to tackle concerns of our culture with their unique sense of humour. 

Love it or hate it, Gilbert and George base their personas on the polarity their work generates, establishing themselves as both commentators and comedians at the same time.