ART

THE GREY ORGANIZATION:

ANARCHIST

Underground

The Gray Organization (1983 – 1991) was born, in a sense, from the punk culture and has its roots in the young anarchist movement of the ’70s. The young anarchists stood against an increasingly consumerist society, slave of work, in which people were going to meet a cultural flattening according to the god of money, revered by the yuppies. That’s what the founders of the GO stood for, especially against the sale of art, which had now become a luxury item, sold at crazy prices by gallery owners. Fighters for the emerging artists.

They were against the scourge of high unemployment produced by the recession of the late 1970’s.

So, in 1982 Toby Mott, Daniel Saccoccio, Tim Burke and Paul Spencer founded an artistic collective to give voice, as well as to their art, to their way of thinking about art.In fact, theirs was an “active” way of being an artist’s: making “artistic terrorism”, like acts of demonstration and sabotage; for example, “contaminating” the International Contemporary Art Fair in London with their own paintings.

In ’86 they sprayed with gray paint on the windows of various art galleries on Cork Street, a luxurious street in central London known for its galleries, to protest against the commodification of art.

After this attack, which cost them prison and the prohibition to go to central London, they decided to move to East Village of New York that at that time was teeming with young artists.

Overseas, the four CO artists actively participated in what was the golden age of the East Village’s “popular” contemporary art, that is, the kind of art that sided against the luxurious galleries of Soho and had decided to move its studies into a less rich part of the city; here they exhibited at The Civilian Warfare Gallery.

Even in NY their activism led them to problems with the law, especially when in 1986 they took part to the J.S.G. Boggs exhibition “Money” at the Young Unknowns Gallery. Boggs was an artist who produced fake banknotes, which became known as “Boggs Notes” and was not well seen by the American and British government, who had long been trying to frame it on charges of being a forger.

It was during this exhibition that the police raided and confiscated the Boggs Notes and some artworks of the Gray Organization.

But despite the trouble with justice, the ideas and style of GO soon began to be noticed even to a wider audience.

 

Their poster was made up of shaven heads, white shirts and gray suits (like teasing yuppies) and slogans like “We wear no ties”, considering the tie as a symbol of slavery. This logo and their slogans ended up on t-shirts commissioned by the Labor party for the Jobs and Industry campaign on youth unemployment.

This brought the group a notable fame, in addition to their logo put on t-shirts worn by hundreds of kids; therefore, in practice, even the Gray Organization, in a certain way, started to assume the characteristics of mass phenomenon against which it had always stood.

The group broke up in 1991, and Toby Mott moved to the United States, where he embarked on a new artistic path by himself, founding The Mott Collection.

Toby Mott, who had been considered the leader of the group, became a designer and an entrepreneur of great success and international fame, and founder of the brand “Tobi Pimlico”. His collection of punk memorabilia is vast and includes thousands of posters, fanzines and even his work of art, which still produces, with nostalgic slogans of the period punk like “All Cops Are Bastards”, his t- shirts were worn by models likes Kate Moss and Naomi Campbell.

Tim Burke, who remained in London to fight for his community, opened the Portobello Pop Up Cinema in 2009 to give voice to the most marginalized artists. The cinema had to close due to lack of funds in 2016 and two years later Burke died only 55 years old.

 

Words by Federica Diaz Splendiani

The Grey Organization

Protest

The Gray Organization

1980s

Cork Street Attacks

G.O. "Alive and Awake"

Manifesto

Toby Mott

Founding Member  G.O.

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