Raul to visit London for opening of Gilbert & George Centre

Raul With Gilbert And George
Raul Speek with his friends, Gilbert and George

Raul and his wife Heather are heading to London for the private opening of a new exhibition space and research centre by their artist friends, Gilbert & George.

The special invite means they’ll get the chance to explore the Gilbert & George Centre in Spitalfields, East London, before its official opening on 1 April.

They will see the centre’s inaugural show, The Paradisical Pictures, as well as view another exhibition by the duo, The Corpsing Pictures, at White Cube gallery in Mason’s Yard, central London. The celebrations will finish with a dinner by José Pizarro at Christ Church Spitalfields.

A friendship spanning three decades

Raul has known Gilbert and George since the early 1990s, when he had a studio in the same neighbourhood as them in Spitalfields.

Raul says: “In 1969 Gilbert & George did something that put them right up there in the avant-garde art world. They stood on a table with their faces covered in metallic paint and sang to a recording of a popular folk song of the time, Underneath the Arches. If we use a modern term, this ‘went viral’, and it’s how they entered history as living sculptures. They are two artists but one work of art, and I believe this first work influenced the contemporary art world of Damien Hirst, Tracey Emin, etc.”

The artists outside the Gilbert & George Centre in Spitalfields, London

The artists outside the Gilbert & George Centre in Spitalfields, London (photo by Yu Yigang, courtesy Gilbert & George)

Raul presenting his friends with a gift

Raul presenting his friends with a gift

Pushing the boundaries

In Cuba, where Raul was born and grew up, Raul recalls going through the most recent art magazines and talking about how Gilbert & George were “pushing the boundaries of art”.

After moving to the UK in 1991, Raul opened a studio in Spitalfields Market. “I’d see Gilbert & George most Sundays,” he says, “and they often brought others with them, like Damien Hirst. 

“At the beginning, Spitalfields was the ground zero of the Young British Artists (YBAs) in London, with people like Tracey Emin and Cornelia Parker, who I exhibited with.”

Raul and Heather now live in Pembrokeshire, but whenever they travel to London, they visit Gilbert and George for conversation and often lunch. And it was during one of these visits that they filmed their friends in their studio and for a short interview.

Collaboration with Gilbert & George

Raul has a collaboration with the two artists called Guess Who Is Coming To Tea. The central image is an oil painting by Raul of three Welsh ladies in traditional costume, with Gilbert & George as cut-out figures either side of them. Four signed prints of their work form part of the installation.

Raul says: “Heather and I are looking forward to meeting up with our friends in London and seeing their gallery before it officially opens.

“I still believe Gilbert & George are the most influential artists in the world today.” 

Guess Who Is Coming To Tea collaboration

Guess Who Is Coming To Tea 

What is the Gilbert & George Centre?

Situated in the heart of London’s East End, the Gilbert & George Centre will be a permanent home for the duo’s artistic legacy. The belief that underpins their art is ‘Art for All’, and the venue is an extension of this ethos.

Comprised of three galleries, the Gilbert & George Centre will open to the public on 1 April 2023 with The Paradisical Pictures exhibition. The artists’ vision for the centre, which is a registered charity, is for it to serve as both a place for research and scholarship on their art, as well as a major cultural institution in London.

White Cube is hosting Gilbert & George’s Corpsing Pictures exhibition

White Cube is hosting Gilbert & George’s Corpsing Pictures exhibition 

The Corpsing Pictures

On display at White Cube Mason’s Yard, The Corpsing Pictures is a series of works in which Gilbert & George are seen in confined spaces in a range of emotional states and among bones and other items. The exhibition runs from 29 March to 20 May 2023.

Raul Speek Gallery re-opening

Handmade books, by Heather Bennett