Toby Mott

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Toby Mott
Born (1964-01-12) 12 January 1964 (age 50)
London, England
Nationality British
Known for Artist, designer, Collector

Toby Victor Mott (born 12 January 1964) is a British artist, designer and sometime Punk historian known for his work with the Grey Organisation, an artists' collective that was active in the 1980s, and for his fashion brand Toby Pimlico.[1] More recently he has won acclaim for the Mott Collection,[2] an archive of UK punk rock and political ephemera that includes over 1,000 posters, flyers and fanzines.[3]

Life and career[edit]

Early life[edit]

Toby Mott was born in London 1964.[1] He attended several schools, including Pimlico Comprehensive where he shared a classroom with the screen writer Amy Jenkins and Patrick Harrington an infamous leading member of the National Front. He later studied art at Westminster Kingsway College. Mott was a founder member of the ASA (Anarchist Street Army, a late 1970s organisation that caused disturbances in the Pimlico area of London).[2] In the early 1980s he lived at the Carburton Street squats in Fitzrovia, a centre of artistic activity at the time – other residents included Boy George, Marilyn, Cerith Wyn Evans, Fiona Russell-Powell and Mark Lebon. During this period Mott appeared in a number of films made by the British director Derek Jarman, notably The Angelic Conversation and also appearing in Gilbert & George's "Exister" pieces from 1984, currently in the Tate Collection.

In the late 1980s and early 1990s he was based in New York and Los Angeles working part-time as a bicycle messenger and as an art director for MTV making music videos for various groups, among them Public Enemy, A Tribe called Quest and The Rolling Stones. In 1989 Mott designed album cover graphics for groups such as Information Society[4] and De La Soul, most notably their debut album 3 Feet High and Rising[5][6]

Anarchist Street Army[edit]

The Anarchist Street Army (ASA) was a loose collective of young punks and anarchists from several inner city London Schools including Pimlico Comprehensive, London Nautical School and Camden School for Girls, who congregated around an independent record shop on Wilton Road called Recordsville and attended Crass concerts.[2] Their motives as an organisation were varied, but had a general ethos of bringing anarchy and chaos to the London streets, such as crashing Capital Radio's Nicky Horne show in an attempt to save the Roxy,[7] and were a forerunner to later organisations with similar attitudes such as Class War, The Wombles, and protest tactics like Black Bloc. The ASA's motto and anthem was 'Running Riot' a punk rock song by the band Cock Sparrer,[8] later adopted by Right Wing factions within the Oi! movement.

Grey Organisation and solo art career[edit]

Mott was a co-founder of the East London art group the Grey Organisation (GO) who were active from 1983 to 1991. GO worked in several mediums including film and video and participated in over 20 international exhibitions.[9] In January 1985 the group committed an act of "art terrorism"[10] by smuggling one of their paintings into the International Contemporary Arts Fair in London. The following year they mounted an attack on Cork Street, then the centre of the London art world, splashing grey paint on the windows of a number of galleries. After this, members of the group were arrested and for a time banned from central London. This resulted in them relocating to New York City where they exhibited at The Civilian Warfare Gallery in the East Village. When GO disbanded in 1991, Mott pursued a solo career[11] exhibiting at White Columns NYC, The Thomas Soloman Garage, Los Angeles and Interim Art, London. He was for many years represented by the Maureen Paley gallery.[12]

In September 2011 Toby Mott produced a series of paintings inspired by the 2011 England riots, the resulting exhibition 'Unrest' was exhibited at Vegas Gallery, London. Many of the paintings in the exhibition were brandished with the slogan 'All Coppers Are Bastards' in gold leaf a reference to the legendary punk/political slogan. Mott said of this exhibition "I was going to call the exhibition, 'I’ll keep looting until I get caught'— a quote from a looter but which could equally apply to a banker, [T]hose at the bottom are taking their lead from those at the top; although the rioters act in a cruder way, it is essentially the same thing."[13]

In October 2011, Knightsbridge gallery New Contemporary presented a solo exhibition of paintings by Mott entitled 'This Means Everything'. "The show is comprised of collection of new paintings addressing our culture's present preoccupation with fame and success versus the historical background of nihilism and anarchy as epitomised by the punk movement."[14][15][16]

In 2013 Toby Mott exhibited a print edition of the original album art work, displayed alongside memorabilia such as Mott's original sketch, his gold disc, and other items from his private collection.[17]

The Mott Collection[edit]

Mott began his collection in the late 1970s. In addition to the iconic works of the era, notably those produced by Jamie Reid for The Sex Pistols and Linder Sterling for the Buzzcocks, it includes propaganda from political groups such as Rock Against Racism and the British National Front and memorabilia from the Silver Jubilee of Elizabeth II, an event that collided with punk's high-water mark in 1977.

In a A Punk's Journey, an essay by Mott which appears in Loud Flash, he writes: "In 1977 my bedroom was covered in posters, flyers and shelves of records and fanzines, and when I left home these significant symbols of my past were stored away. In 1997 I returned from living in America and started to add to my collection. I appreciated the visual immediacy which never seemed tired or dated. The ideals of self empowerment, motivation, action and common cause are evident throughout [the collection]. To me they are the spirit of punk".

Exhibitions of the Mott Collection include:

Jubilee, 2012 – Sixty Punk Singles. Publication supporting the exhibition of the same name, 30 May – 24 June 2012

On the occasion of the exhibition at Honor Fraser a panel discussion took place moderated by Professor Vivien Goldman of the NYU Tisch School of the Arts, panel members: Gardar Eide Einarsson, Artist, Billy Idol, Punk Musician, Toby Mott, artist, writer and collector, Simon Reynolds, British author and music journalist.[22]

  • We Have Our Own Concept of Time and Motion, Auto Italia South East, London, 25–28 Aug
  • Nothing in the World But Youth, Selections from the Mott Collection: Thatcher's youth, Turner Contemporary, Margate, 17 September 2011 – 8 January 2012 accompanied by the publication: Nothing in the World But Youth, ISBN 978-0-9552363-3-4
  • We Are the Writing on the Wall, MoMA PS1: NY Art Book Fair, New York City, 30 September – 2 October accompanied by the publication: 100 Fanzines/10 Years of British Punk – 1976–1985, PPP Editions ISBN 978-0-9826431-0-5[23] On the occasion of the exhibition at MoMA PS1 a panel discussion took place on the history of British punk fanzines, moderated by Professor Vivien Goldman of the NYU Tisch School of the Arts, Toby Mott, artist, writer and collector, Joly MacFie, fanzine publisher, Victor Brand writer, Michael Gonzales afro-punk music writer.[24]
  • Jubilee 2012 – Sixty Punk Singles, The Vinyl Factory, London, 30 May – 24 June 2012.

Accompanied by the exhibition catalogue: Jubilee 2012 – Sixty Punk Singles, designed and printed by Ditto Press, ISBN 978-1-84321-996-4

  • KRAFTWERK. 45RPM, The Vinyl Factory, London, 13 Sep – 5 October 2012.

An exhibition of forty-five 7" single covers by the German krautrock group Kraftwerk, many designed by Emil Schult. Accompanied by the exhibition catalogue KRAFTWERK. 45RPM, designed and printed by Ditto Press, ISBN 978-09573914-0-6 In the catalogue's introductory essay 'Kraftwerk, Yesterday's Tomorrow', Mott describes the group's aesthetic as "an analogue past dreaming of today's digital present."

  • David Bowie – Nacht Musik, The Vinyl Factory, London, 7 Feb – 3 March 2013.

An exhibition of forty-five 7" single covers by David Bowie, from his Berlin period. Accompanied by the exhibition catalogue David Bowie – Nacht Musik, designed and printed by Ditto Press, ISBN 978-09573914-1-4

  • American Hardcore 1978 – 1990, Vinyl Factory, London, 11 April – 4 May 2013.

An exhibition of fifty 7" single covers by various American Hardcore Punk bands such as Black Flag, JFA, Bad Brains, & The Dicks among others. Accompanied by the exhibition catalogue American Hardcore 1978 – 1990, designed and printed by Ditto Press, ISBN 978-0-9573914-2-0

The Mott Collection – CRASS exhibition[edit]

In February 2011 Mott exhibited another part of his collection, Crass, selections from The Mott Collection, an exhibition of over 130 objects and artefacts centred on the anarchic, self-produced culture of the British band Crass, featuring significant pieces by Gee Vaucher, and the influential Crass logo by Dave King, Roth gallery, New York.[25][26] The exhibition featured artwork, albums and ephemera, including original 12" LPs and EPs, 7" singles from Crass Records, and a complete set of Crass' iconic house zine, Inter-National Anthem. The material featured in the exhibition spanned the high period of Crass' endeavours, from 1978 to 1984, and constitutes a special segment of The Mott Collection. Says Mott: "Crass ended its own story in 1984 a suitable Orwellian demise – but while active they were nothing but authentic, inspiring and principled in a cynical age, answering to no one but themselves." The Roth Gallery exhibition was also accompanied by a publication: Crass 1977 – 1984, PPP Editions, 2011[27]

The Mott Collection – Jubilee exhibition[edit]

To celebrate the Diamond Jubilee of Queen Elizabeth II, the Mott Collection exhibited a collection of sixty 7" punk singles including records by The Clash, Ian Dury, The Cortinas, and the Buzzcocks among others. The exhibition was accompanied by a publication of the same name reproducing various group's cover artwork including the iconic God Save the Queen by the Sex Pistols. In an interview with Peter Aspden in the Financial Times, Mott discusses how the Queen became an icon of the punk movement after the Sex Pistols defaced Cecil Beaton's portrait of her with a safety-pin.[28]

"I was playing some of the records yesterday," said Mott. "They are amazing. They are so musical. They are like pop. I can't believe my parents said they were nothing but noise. Really, it is something you would want your own kids to be doing, it was so creative, instead of all this consumer stuff and video games. Punk was portrayed as this negative thing but, in fact, it was a high point and a lasting part of British culture. And that is why we should be celebrating it. Punk marked the end of the postwar period. It gave birth to individualism and then the Thatcher era that followed.” [28]

The book was designed by Ditto Press and printed on a Risograph machine.

Toby Pimlico[edit]

Toby Pimlico is a fashion label based on paintings by Toby Mott. Mott began making paintings based on detention school 'lines' such as "I Will Try Harder"; these were then transferred onto t-shirts, transforming them into a recognisable design motif. He came up with the brand name, Toby Pimlico, and an initial six designs, including "I Must Not Chase the Boys" and "I Have Nothing To Wear".[29] The T-shirts began to have a cult following after being worn by Kate Moss, the actress Sienna Miller,[30] Geri Halliwell from The Spice Girls and It Girl Tara Palmer-Tomkinson. The label also received praise from the Prince of Wales.[31]

Other slogans are used to promote social consciousness, such as the Marie Curie-inspired 'love you to death.'[32]

The label was launched at London Fashion Week in 1998.[29]

The Brand now includes a range of tea towels, maternity wear and knickers.[29]

Mott responded to his own success and transition from Punk to artist-businessman by calling himself a 'Gold Card Anarchist'[10]

Personal life[edit]

In 2005, Mott was involved in an incident with a "gang" of youths near his home in Notting Hill Gate; according to the British newspaper The Daily Mail, Mott called the police after the assault and told them he was carrying CS gas for his own protection.[33] He was then arrested for possession of a weapon and held for 11 hours at high-security Paddington Green police station.

In 2000 Mott dated the actress Emilia Fox.[33][34]

Mott divorced celebrity hairdresser Louise Galvin in 2008 after one year of marriage,[35] as reported in the Evening Standard. Mott met Galvin through a mutual friend, she was already several months pregnant when they married.[29] "The marriage was never going to work, I discovered Louise had matching Louis Vuitton luggage" says Mott.[29]

Their daughter was born in 2007.[36]

In 2013 Toby Mott's twin brother, Simon Mott, founded the Hope Rehab Center Thailand in the Chon Buri region of Thailand.[37]


  1. ^ a b "Toby Mott, Esq Authorised Biography | Debrett's People of Today". 12 January 1964. Retrieved 7 April 2014. 
  2. ^ a b c Sean O'Hagan. "Loud Flash: the art of punk | Feature | Art and design | The Observer". Guardian. Retrieved 7 April 2014. 
  3. ^ [1][dead link]
  4. ^ "Information Society – What's on Your Mind (Pure Energy) (Vinyl) at Discogs". Retrieved 7 April 2014. 
  5. ^ "De La Soul – 3 Feet High And Rising (Vinyl, LP, Album) at Discogs". 28 August 2007. Retrieved 7 April 2014. 
  6. ^ "The Art of the Album Cover: De La Soul's 3 Feet High and Rising by Toby Mott + the Grey Organisation". Retrieved 7 April 2014. 
  7. ^ Coertie! (11 February 2010). "The Bollock Brothers!: A Punk's Journey". Retrieved 7 April 2014. 
  8. ^ "CRASS – anarcho punk, thatchergate, multimedia, art, gigs and more". Dedece Blog. Retrieved 7 April 2014. 
  9. ^ "". Retrieved 7 April 2014. 
  10. ^ a b "Stewart Home as writer in residence at Tate Modern Level 2 Project". Retrieved 7 April 2014. 
  11. ^ "Frieze Magazine | Archive | Archive | Some Drawings: From London". Retrieved 7 April 2014. 
  12. ^
  13. ^ "Londoner's Diary | Evening Standard". 6 December 2013. Retrieved 7 April 2014. 
  14. ^
  15. ^ [2][dead link]
  16. ^ "London Updates: all’ombra della zuppiera di Wedgwood. Anche Brompton rispolvera gallerie e spazi dismessi e sfoggia il suo Design District". Artribune. Retrieved 7 April 2014. 
  17. ^ "De La Soul". Snap Galleries. 26 January 2013. Retrieved 7 April 2014. 
  18. ^ a b "Loud Flash. British Punk on Paper at MUSAC León". Retrieved 7 April 2014. 
  19. ^ [3][dead link]
  20. ^ "Blog Archive " Didn't You Used To Be Tony D?". Kill Your Pet Puppy. 3 October 2010. Retrieved 7 April 2014. 
  21. ^ Artforum, November 2011
  22. ^ "July 16th, 2011 4:00 PM – 6:00 PM, Honor Fraser". ArtSlant. 16 July 2011. Retrieved 7 April 2014. 
  23. ^ "Artist Talk and new book release: 100 Fanzines/10 Years of British Punk 1976–1985". 6 November 2011. Retrieved 7 April 2014. 
  24. ^ "Events". Ny Art Book Fair. Retrieved 7 April 2014. 
  25. ^ [4][dead link]
  26. ^ "CRASS: selections from The Mott Collection 18th February – 18th March 2011 |". 27 January 2011. Retrieved 7 April 2014. 
  27. ^ [5][dead link]
  28. ^ a b Aspden, Peter (2 June 2012). "Why punk and the Queen go hand in hand". Retrieved 7 April 2014. 
  29. ^ a b c d e Lydia Slater (9 September 2010). "Toby Mott , from the punk of Pimlico to power player – Life & Style – London Evening Standard". Retrieved 7 April 2014. 
  30. ^ Lepper, Joe (3 November 2005). "Toby Pimlico clothing brand makes 25,000 list available – Brand Republic News". Retrieved 7 April 2014. 
  31. ^ "Toby Mott and Prince Charles hit it off during a party at St James' Palace ( UK)". 19 July 2001. Retrieved 7 April 2014. 
  32. ^ Custom byline text:  Rebecca McQuillan (8 February 2002). "Scotland". Retrieved 7 April 2014. 
  33. ^ a b "Stars' designer arrested for fighting back against gang | Mail Online". 11 February 2005. Retrieved 7 April 2014. 
  34. ^ "Crime Drama | Alibi Channel". Retrieved 7 April 2014. 
  35. ^ Fiona Mccarthy (22 November 2008). "Licence to chill: Louise's cool space in the city | Mail Online". Retrieved 7 April 2014. 
  36. ^ "Gwyneth Paltrow shows Chris Martin that she can sing too". Telegraph. Retrieved 7 April 2014. 
  37. ^

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