Catalogue entry

T03352 CORONATION CROSS 1981

Inscribed ‘CORONATION CROSS/Gilbert and George/1981’ bottom right
Paper collage on board, 52 1/4×39 3/4 (133×99.7)
Purchased from Anthony d'Offay Ltd (Grant-in-Aid) 1982
Exh: Gilbert and George: Crusade, An Exhibition of Post Card Pieces, Anthony d'Offay, January–February 1982 (works not numbered)

The private view card for the above exhibition carried the following text:

'What is a Post Card Piece?

'The form of the Post Card Piece lends itself to the expression of finer feelings, stirring thoughts and beautiful views.

'Through our hearts, brains and bodies the cards crystallise into our crosses of Monarchical, Christian, Nationalistic, Violent, Pagan, Floral, Sexual Post Card Pieces.

'They are our shields, our swords, our emblem, our vision, our tombstone and our life-masks.

'GILBERT AND GEORGE

‘1981’

The exhibition consisted of 115 postcard pieces, in most of which the postcards were deployed to form a cross. ‘Coronation Cross’ consists of 49 collaged postcards arranged in 7 rows; 36 are identical coloured postcards (printer unknown) showing the rib vaulting above the nave in Westminster Abbey, and 13 are identical postcards in colour (printed by Fisa I.G. Palaudarias, 26, Barcelona) of Cecil Beaton's portrait of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II taken on Coronation Day, 2 June 1953. Beaton took the original photograph in Buckingham Palace after the Coronation ceremony in Westminster Abbey; the Queen, holding the Sovereign's Orb in her left hand and the Sceptre with the Cross in her right, and wearing the Imperial State Crown, was sitting in front of a greatly enlarged photograph showing part of the Henry VII Chapel in Westminster Abbey.

The exhibition Crusade included many postcard pieces showing members of the Royal Family including the Queen, the Duke of Edinburgh, Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother, the Prince and Princess of Wales and Prince Andrew. Gilbert and George had rarely, if at all, included portrayals of women in their work before this exhibition, which also included postcards showing the statue of Queen Boadicea on the north side of the Thames at Westminster. The Queen, the Queen Mother, the Princess of Wales and Boadicea are women whom Gilbert and George admire greatly.

A large part of the artists's crusade is on behalf of British nationhood and art together; British art they see as being neglected and underestimated in Britain, and British nationhood as being symbolized by Westminster, the seat of government, and the Queen, the Head of State.

The crosses in Gilbert and George's postcard pieces were not intended to have a specific Christian connotation, but to be an emblem, such as might be used to lead a secular crusade.


Published in:
The Tate Gallery 1980-82: Illustrated Catalogue of Acquisitions, London 1984