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Top Ten Art Double Acts Forget Morecambe and Wise and Bob and Bing. Art double acts are where its at. Lake investigates the Top Ten arranged by the trademarked Tea Towel Factor.

Top Ten Art Double Acts

Forget Morecambe and Wise and Bob and Bing. Art double acts are where its at. Lake investigates the Top Ten arranged by the trademarked Tea Towel Factor.

by Lake, Film Editor
first published: November, 2005

approximate reading time: minutes

How does the work translate into tea-towels, aprons and alarm clocks?

To celebrate the publication of Carolyn Burke's excellent new biography of photographer Lee Miller (Lee Miller : A Life Bloomsbury, UK) we've decided to put together another one of our lazy but much loved lists.

As Miller partnered two of the giants of twentieth century art we are focusing on great art double acts. Arranged in a loose Top Ten style and eminently suitable for turning into a Top Trumps style party game where you may "battle" the art duos category by category its perfect for Christmas parties.

The duos don't necessarily have had to collaborate though many have. What's important in their selection is that they were together while creating art. The judging criteria is as follows; Marks are out of ten. The "time served" category is a wild card used to separate tied cards and not included in the totals for chart position.

Innovation: Have we seen it all before? Did they say something new or at least say the same old thing in a new way?
Inspiration: Did anybody notice? Did the artists inspire anybody else to create?
Perspiration: Quantity not quality counts here.
The Tea Towel Factor: While I wait to open my gallery where the gift shop dwarfs the exhibition space lets ensure that our artists are getting the most from commercial spin-offs. How does the work translate into tea-towels, aprons and alarm clocks?
Time Served: How long were/ have they been together?


10) Tim Noble and Sue Webster (Total Rating: 10)
Brit art also-rans who have somehow managed to convince gullible curators and private collectors that they are worth investing in. Manufactured in the manner of pop groups like Dollar or Tatu but not as entertaining as the former and about as "cutting edge" as the latter. Gimmicky and superficial, their greatest talent is self-promotion. They have a long career ahead of them.
Innovation: 1
Inspiration: 2
Perspiration: 4
Tea Towel Factor: 3 (but how they wish it could be higher)
Time Served: 11 years and continuing

9) Jane and Louise Wilson (Total Rating: 14)
Toon twins producing quite serious video work much loved by critics and curators but more often ignored by the general public to the point of anonymity. Turner prize nominees in 1999 though beaten by Steve McQueen (not the dead actor). Collaborated since 1989. Could probably play up the spooky twins factor to get themselves more coverage.
Innovation: 5
Inspiration: 3
Perspiration: 6
Tea Towel Factor: 0
Time Served: 16 years and continuing

8) Christo and Jean Claude (Total Rating: 20)
Wrappers delight with Christo and sidekick. Basically they do the same thing over and over. Quite fun to see live, quite dull in photos. Together since 1958 though they first collaborated in 1961. My proposal for the Christo gift wrapping kit was rejected out of hand. They don't seem to have got a handle on marketing even after all this time and don't even take sponsorship for their vast environmental works.
Innovation: 6
Inspiration: 5
Perspiration: 7
Tea Towel Factor: 2
Time Served: 44 years and continuing.

7) Iain Forsyth and Jane Pollard (Total Rating: 21)
Outsideleft favourites for their recreations of classic rock events like the Cramps live in a mental hospital or the last Ziggy Stardust show. A hybrid of high art and low-brow rock'n'roll without the leaden theorising that shackles so many other contemporary artists. They mean it, man!
Innovation: 6
Inspiration: 5
Perspiration: 7
Tea Towel Factor: 3
Time Served: 12 years and continuing

6) Chapman Brothers (Total Rating: 22)
Two brothers, Jake and Dinos, who are often a lot funnier than they are given credit for. Or are they really that pretentious? Reputation somewhat sullied by their close links with the Abominable Saatchi but stock climbed since half their work burned in a warehouse fire. Together since younger brother Jake's birth in 1966 but only working since 1992.
Innovation: 7
Inspiration: 5
Perspiration: 6
Tea Towel Factor: 4
Time Served: 13 years and continuing

5) Robert and Sonia Delaunay (Total Rating: 26)
The creators of Orphism, a kind of lyrical Cubism. Sonia was the first artist to be granted a retrospective at the Louvre while still living. Easy on the eye, their colourful work was used for ballet set designs and commercial posters. During her lifetime Sonia created many designs for textiles but probably didn't plan on them being used for pencil cases and address books.
Innovation: 5
Inspiration: 6
Perspiration: 6
Tea Towel Factor: 9
Time Served: 31 years

4) Gilbert and George (Total Rating: 27)
Living sculptures and often bodily function obsessed stained glass window styled painters/photographers. Together since 1967. Seemingly hugely popular with public galleries as its hard to visit one that doesn't have a G+G room. And this surely pays off at the tills of the gift shops as their instantly recognisable work has been used for everything from Rubik's Cubes to Christmas decorations.
Innovation: 6
Inspiration: 5
Perspiration: 7
Tea Towel Factor: 9
Time Served: 38 years and continuing

3) Lee Miller and Roland Penrose (Total Rating: 28)
Of course Miller could also have been lined up alongside Man Ray and so increased dramatically the Tea Towel points but we've patriotically plumped for the greatest British surrealist pictured here with mumps in a photo by Miller. Miller was stunningly beautiful and lived an amazing life (this is where I say go read the book mentioned above). Penrose was a prolific painter and writer and helped promote surrealism and the work of many artist friends not least by helping to found the ICA in London.
Innovation: 6.
Inspiration: 9
Perspiration: 7
Tea Towel Factor: 6
Time Served: 40 years (up to Miller's death in 1977)

2) Max Ernst and Dorothea Tanning (Total Rating: 30)
Dada giant meets minor surrealist. Ernst and Tanning married in joint wedding with Man Ray and Juliet Browner in 1946. Born in 1910 Tanning is still going strong as the last surviving original surrealist.
Innovation: 7
Inspiration: 7
Perspiration: 10 (you try living 95 years)
Tea Towel Factor: 6
Time Served: 30 years

1) Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera (Total Rating: 31)
The magnificent Mexicans. A tag team titan of marketing opportunities with the monobrow that launched a million mouse mats. Subject of a not too bad movie but Kahlo is damaged by close association with Madonna. See our own Henderson Downing's previous piece on Kahlo for the full story. OL: 320
Innovation: 6
Inspiration: 8
Perspiration: 7
Tea Towel Factor: 10
Time Served: 23 years (in two stints)

Film Editor

Kirk Lake is a writer, musician and filmmaker. His published books include Mickey The Mimic (2015) and The Last Night of the Leamington Licker (2018). His films include the feature films Piercing Brightness (2014) and The World We Knew (2020) and a number of award winning shorts.

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