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Gilbert & George’s advice to today’s art students

Published 12 October 2018

Visiting the students of Wolverhampton School of Art, the Turner Prize-winning duo had some wisdom to bestow on today’s “baby artists”…

  • Today’s art students are “much more proficient” than they were at that age, Gilbert & George noted when they visited the University of Wolverhampton recently – but the Turner Prize-winning duo still had one piece of advice for artists starting out in their careers.

    “Tomorrow morning, sit on the edge of the bed and close your eyes,” they told students, “and don’t open your eyes until you’ve decided, what do I want to say to the world today?”

    Gilbert & George have worked as one artist since they met at art school in 1967. They won the Turner Prize in 1986, and in 2017 became the first duo to be elected as a Royal Academician.

    Visiting Wolverhampton University as part of a nationwide programme of events and exhibitions supported by Art Fund to mark the Royal Academy’s 250th birthday, the pair visited the end-of-year exhibition by the MA Fine Art students, held at The New Art Gallery in Walsall, and took part in an ‘In Conversation’ event with the gallery’s director, Stephen Snoddy.

    “We’re amazed that these students are very very proficient, they’re artists ready for gallery shows,” Gilbert & George said of the MA students. “When we were baby artists we weren’t like that. We just had scruffy studios that were smelly and rundown and filled with tobacco smoke.”

  • Tomorrow morning, sit on the edge of the bed and close your eyes. Don’t open your eyes until you’ve decided, ‘what do I want to say to the world today’.

    Gilbert & George

  • The pair went on to reflect on how their own career started at Saint Martin’s School of Art (now Central Saint Martin’s). “Most art students in our generation were from middle class backgrounds, and we’re both from lower class backgrounds. So we had to succeed, there was nothing else.

    “So we just got involved in our feelings, in our hopes, and all of the subjects that we felt were universal and inside all of us. We began to deal with death, hope, life, fear, sex, money, race, religion from there on.”

    Gilbert & George, who also recently spoke at the RA’s Festival of Ideas, say they’re “busier than ever”, with six museum exhibitions currently in preparation.

  • This project, with Art Fund support, forms part of RA250 UK: Exhibitions and events around the UK to celebrate 250 years of the Royal Academy of Arts.

    Check the RA250UK map to find an event near you.