A lost artwork by Gilbert & George. ‘There Were Two Young Men’ was first shown in 1971 at the Sperone Gallery in Turin. However, following the show it was stolen, and wasn’t seen again for over 40 years until the thief attempted to sell the work. The work is a ‘Charcoal on Paper sculpture’ in six parts and is part of a series of 13 sculptures created between 1970 and 1974. Following its recovery the work was acquired by Fondation Louis Vuitton and exhibited in Paris in 2019.
Gilbert & George had the original transparencies that they had taken and stored since 1971. They thought that the colour of these was accurate and we used these to make the first proofs of the images. However on viewing these first proofs we felt they weren’t right. The text was difficult to read and the images had a greenish hue. Talking it over with Gilbert & George, they told us that the text was originally written in India ink and the paper had been ‘aged’ with potassium Permanganate from which we’d expect a red/brown hue.
We knew we had to see the originals to be sure the colour was accurate, and we didn’t want that to be at the opening! So, with only two weeks to go, we got permission see the original work in Paris. There, as expected we found the drawings were almost brown in colour and the text was clear and legible (at scale).
With time for only one visit, we took extensive colour notes and photographs. On return we undertook detailed reworking of the images, masking the texts to overprint as a second black – much the same way as they’d been made.
The show was excellent and the book looked great. The best part of this job was receiving a phone call from Gilbert & George to let us know how immensely happy they were with the book, and how it felt just how they remembered the originals.