Coupled Artists / by Missy Douglas

Gilbert & George

Gilbert & George

Couples Who Are Artists. Perilously flawed or perfectly in tune? Recently we were at an opening, chatting to fellow artists and, upon finding out that we were married and worked together, the group was aghast. ‘You work together? What, full time? Don’t either of you have another job? Don’t you argue the whole time? How do you manage? I mean, never mind the financial aspect, but what about the galleries? They don’t even look at married couples.’ Right. Thank you so much for your informed opinion. Let me grab another a bottle of Costco’s finest chardonnay from the drinks table over there and start a cost-benefit analysis of getting a divorce with a view to artistic stardom.

As much as we hate to admit it, the group did have a point. There are indeed juries and galleries that won’t consider our work. At best, we are seen as a curiosity. At worst, a risk and a potential problem. That a shared vision and joint endeavor are merely a foil to mask two weak individuals who wouldn't otherwise make it. That to be in love with your colleague inevitably leads to a loss of objectivity and critical thinking. And aside from the administrative barriers (ever tried to squish two names and two resumes into a basic artist info box?), commercial institutions prefer to pimp the isolated studio warrior (who is preferably beautiful, under 30 with a woke USP), rather than a married couple lumbering cynically through middle-age. The overriding fear is that to contract us is to be the third wheel in a monumental month long Bicker-Fest about who took the garbage out.

Never mind that we are two professionals when we go to work. Never mind that this Old Lady/Old Man might offer a wealth of shared skill and experience. Never mind that galleries have indeed ‘touched’ us. Never mind that organizations, commissions and businesses have contracted us to make things and show things. Never mind that history suggests otherwise. Some of the most famous artists of all time have shared both a bed and a studio. Gilbert & George, anyone?

Take a risk, galleries. Don’t judge us on our personal circumstances alone. Look at the artistic superstars of right now and yesteryear. And bloody well allow artists to put an ‘&’ in the basic artist info box.