Sims Reed Rare Books×

To be with Art is all we Ask

Gilbert & George

(London). (Art for All). 1970, autumn
The very rare portfolio edition with an original photograph and limited to only nine copies of Gilbert & George's second booklet: 'To be with Art is all we Ask'.

From the edition limited to nine numbered copies, signed by the artists in red ink to the front cover and numbered to the rear.

This portfolio edition of 'To be with Art is all we Ask', the second booklet of Gilbert & George, appears to precede the smaller format stapled version issued in an edition of 300 numbered copies. Not only does the portfolio include an original monochrome photograph (this is a reproduction in the booklet version and reversed, reduced in size, cropped and in low resolution) but each page of text for the booklet version, including the explanatory text (see below), is here recto only with large margins on a single sheet. For the smaller format version the artists are described on the cover as 'GILBERT and GEORGE / the human sculptors' and at the head is the Gilbert and George banner with arms, the portfolio edition features neither detail. The portfolio is dated 'AUTUMN 1970' while the exhibition itself, held at Nigel Greenwood Gallery in Glebe Place, was 16th - 21st November.

'To be with Art is all we Ask' details the words of Gilbert & George as addressed to the persona of art. The extraordinary text is questioning, adoring, subservient, and thankful, a mixture of the banal and the ecstatic, pathetic and bathetic: 'We would honestly like to say to you, Art, how happy we are to be your sculptors. We think about you all the time and feel very sentimental about you. We do realise that you are what we really crave for, and many times we meet you in our dreams. We have glimpsed you through the abstract world and have tasted of your reality.' (From the text).

Also included with this portfolio edition are a copy of the booklet version limited to 300 numbered copies and stamped 'GG' in red to the final page of text as well as the invitation to the Nigel Greenwood Gallery exhibition 'To be with Art is all we Ask (a four-piece descriptive set) from Gilbert & George the Sculptors' held in November 1971.

'These pages / illustrate with words and one photograph / our feelings as sculptors on / the subject of Art / When we did it / we felt very light and we hope / that you read it in the same light'. (The artists' explanatory text / statement).

Although both the booklet and the invitation 'To be with Art is all we Ask' are scare, this portfolio version is truly rare: MoMA appears to hold a copy but their description suggests it lacks the leaf of explanatory text and perhaps the original portfolio with the artists' signatures and the justification. We trace no other examples.

[see 'Gilbert & George's Art Titles 1969 - 2010 in Chronological Order' pg. 3, b (booklet), E (Exhibition), LE (Limited Edition); see 'The Words of Gilbert & George' pp. 28 - 30 & 305].
[8 leaves]. Square 4to. (216 x 223 mm). Original monochrome photograph with white border, the caption 'Frozen into a Gazing for you, Art' beneath and with the red 'GG' stamp at lower right (with tissue guardleaf), six leaves of white card with letterpress printed text above printed rule and 'art for all', final numbered leaf also with the 'GG' stamp, the leaves stamp-numbered 1 - 6 at lower right, three-line decorative initial to opening of text and final leaf with explanatory text in italics; sheet size: 204 x 210 mm. Loose as issued in original thick white paper portfolio with white card backing, titles in black and artists' signatures in red ink to front cover, printed justification in black with manuscript number in red ink to overlapping flap on rear cover.

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