Inigo Philbrick, art dealer, on his Gilbert and George book
GB Tell me why you chose this book?
IP For me it encapsulates everything about Art For All, the ideas Gilbert and George have been playing with over their forty-year career. It’s a serial but also unique, hand marbled, and the texts inside are meant to be read aloud so they take on the voice of whoever’s actually reading them. I like this idea of something that’s published in an edition of 1000 but at the same time unique, both in terms of the design and printing of the cover and the fact that as you read it you make it. It’s a book that requires your engagement.
GB Have you read it to anyone?
IP Sections, never the whole thing.
GB Has anyone read it to you?
IP Yes, they’ve read bits of it to me themselves, which is wonderful. The way they trade sentences and begin and finish each other’s thoughts.
GB What’s the text about?
IP It’s about the adventure of being a living sculpture in the world. To quote from the book: “This sculpture is a result of our past three years of earnest daily thoughts, of shadows, deeds, cares and pleasures. We have turned them into ink and arranged them as words and pictures to form this living sculpture book.”
GB Do you think they’re concerned with creating beauty in their art?
IP I think they are and I think it’s about a daily beauty. They don’t want art that’s removed, that’s somehow sublime, something that you look at and can’t imagine. They want it to be daily, to be part of your life, so you have immediate access to it. The pictures in the book reflect that, so for instance look at George here, sitting at home smoking, at ease, you assume at the end of a day. These are points of their lives that we have access to. I think if you see a single picture by Gilbert and George you don’t necessarily understand the concept of Art For All, but this book’s 6 inches by 4 inches captures that and you realise that they want you to be in the art.
GB Do you like the works where they try to shock?
IP I think the shock is supposed to show you that art is something that everybody can have access to. Every part of your life is part of their art.
GB Do you think you like their art more through knowing them personally?
IP When I first went to see them I knew them as names but I didn’t know a lot about their work so all my first questions were answered directly by the artists. I came to understand how their work has evolved, their interests in newspapers for instance and how that is paralleled by an interest in escort cards from phone boxes that are found all over London.
GB Do you think beautiful art is taken less seriously?
IP I think the rules are less fixed. People have their own ideas of what is beautiful. People develop collections completely influenced by their own aesthetic, so my task as an art dealer is to figure out what they think is beautiful.
GB What makes something worthy of the word Beauty to you?
IP For me it’s intellectual. It’s really something that comes from the mind. Lots of things can be pleasurable or sexy or erotic, but for me something beautiful is that and something you can’t necessarily see at first glance. These books have the aesthetic of the marbling and the gold that people who like antiquarian books might go for, but it’s the combination of that with a very aggressively conceptual technique that excites me.