Suggested words

Tea and Cake with Gilbert and George

This is a legacy story from an earlier version of our website. It may contain some formatting issues and broken links.

As part of the Artist Rooms: Gilbert and George exhibition, Museum Collective member Charlie got to meet the artists when they visited Brighton for their ‘In Conversation’ event. 

Please note that this post contains language that some might consider offensive.

When Gilbert and George first said that they were coming to Brighton, everyone was rather excited about it. In the Museum Collective, we were even more enthusiastic about the potential visit as we weren’t the ones who had to organise it.

We knew that they wanted to hold an event in the evening, and that we’d have the opportunity to meet them beforehand. There were lots of different ideas about activities we could do, from playing board games to asking them for tattoo inspiration, but we decided on keeping it simple and having tea and cakes. It would give us time to talk, and who doesn’t like cake?

After what felt like months of talking about it, the day finally came and on the 9th May Gilbert and George visited their exhibition. It was a lovely sunny day, and I managed to get a brief glimpse of them having their photos taken as I sat in the Pavilion Gardens having my lunch. That was the moment that the excitement really set in for me; they were really here and I was going to get to meet them.

As they finished their press interviews, I was tasked with the job of arranging the delicious looking cakes. While I was doing this, other members of the Museum Collective arrived and there was definitely a buzz of anticipation in the air. There were butterflies in my stomach when they came into the Museum Lab. After months of working on the project and learning all about them, Gilbert and George were sat at the end of the table.

Gilbert & George having tea and cake with members of the Museum Collective

Everyone was a little nervous, and with such high profile guests coming to visit, we’d drawn a bit of a crowd of excited museum staff as well as a photographer capturing the moment. We got to ask them questions and they talked about their work, their past and life in general. Of course they were dressed in their signature suits and they even wore matching ties which was a nice touch.

Gilbert seemed particularly cheeky and mischievous, while George was slightly more reserved which was a surprise given that the two have a reputation for causing a stir.  Some of the things that they said were a bit more challenging than others, but I think that’s part of who they are. They are rebellious and controversial within their artwork, and that’s reflected in their character too.

There were three particular moments that I think will always stick with me. The first is their response when asked about their piece ‘In The Shit’ (1996) and in particular how they got some of their images that make up the work. Apparently they documented all of their bodily fluids and bowel movements for a period of time, and then chose the best ones to include. This means that somewhere, there are a bunch of negatives of their poo (and other things) waiting to be discovered.

The second was a discussion between George and one of the art students who was brave enough to ask (although we were all thinking about it). The student raised the question about what would happen if one of the pair was unable to make more work. To which George replied that this is something they always get asked when exhibiting in Germany, “what happens when one of you dies?” he said doing a German accent before adding, “it’s not like we carry around cyanide pills,”.

The Museum Collective with honorary members Gilbert & George

And the final moment that I will always remember is some advice Gilbert and George say that they give to up and coming artists. It came in two parts, but only the first is publishable here, so I’ll save that one for people who were present in the moment. The bit that is fit for print was George saying:

“When you wake up in the morning, sit on the edge of the bed and close your eyes. Don’t open them again until you can answer the question, ‘what am I going to say to the world today?’.“

It was inspiring to hear Gilbert and George talk about their work. They even performed part of their ‘Fuckosophy’ which was a dream come true for me as it’s one of my favourite pieces of theirs. I’m so grateful that I had the opportunity to meet them again, and to welcome them as honorary members of the Museum Collective.


Charlie – Member of the Museum Collective