Magazine article The Spectator

'Don't Overdo It, George'

Magazine article The Spectator

'Don't Overdo It, George'

Article excerpt

`ROY Hattersley! God Almighty, he's a born loser!' said George, pouring me a cup of tea. (Mr Hattersley, reviewing for the Daily Express this month's South Bank Show, devoted to Gilbert and George, had concluded that such air-time was unjustified `unless it was intended for psychiatrists who specialise in self-obsession'.)

George continued, `He said that if this is art, then he's happy to say that he's a philistine. And then he came up with typical left-wing Stalinist rubbish - that the documentary was more suitable for psychiatrists. This is like the Soviet Union. They don't put you in prison, they put you in a mental home!' Gilbert and George have no time for ideology. `We want nil: a free market and not too much politics,' Gilbert told me. `We want administration - keep the roads going, and some public lavatories,' specified George, `and leave the rest to us. Privatise Westminster. You and I do at night what we want without asking central government.'

While they are keen on a free market in Europe, they are wary of the European superstate. `The art world was the European Community before there was one,' said George. `We think a club is something you join because there's table tennis and you can take a shower. You don't join it not to do things, you join it for the extras.' Gilbert admitted that he was 'terrified' by the threat of German and French dominance in the European Union. `Whenever there's a Europhilia show,' explained George, `you get forms saying that no work of art can be more than three times the width and double the breadth. It's like reading the postal regulations. They would say what the medium and the subjects should be, given the chance.'

Gilbert and George are ardent Tories. They believe that the Conservative Party is responsible for injecting new energy into British art. `Maybe the Conservative Government has created an anarchistic environment where it can flourish,' mused Gilbert. `They have created an atmosphere where everyone is fighting for his own little painting.' Gilbert and George believe that only capitalistic systems work for art. `The art has to be worth something,' insisted Gilbert. `If somebody loves a work of art, then it has a value.' Subsidies are dangerous because they create an artificial market. `In France, they poured money into the arts and killed off the art scene. Can you name one living French artist?' George asked me.

`And we remember art under Labour. It was a disaster. There were three stuck-up galleries which showed 90 per cent foreign art and that was it. You taught for 20 years, you became a Sir and then you drank yourself to death because you couldn't become an artist.' It is not only the art world that has benefited from Tory policy. `Britain's never been better off, not in our lifetime,' George declared. `All the young people in Bethnal Green used to be so tribalistic in the Seventies, you couldn't walk there. Now they've all got a tin of Coke, a pizza and a Walkman and they don't trouble you. They go to America on holiday - it's extravagant.'

They do feel that more could be done to lighten the taxpayer's load. `We think graduation in tax is very unfair. They should have a flat rate tax of ten pence to the pound for everyone.' While they believe in structures to support the most disadvantaged, they object to total dependence on the state. `Every time somebody wets themselves on the sofa, they can get a new one the next day,' George complained. `They never put anything into society in their whole life - it's just getting, getting, getting. …

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