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Shoreditch building where artists Tracey Emin and Sarah Lucas had their legendary shop for sale for £1.5m

 (Fine & Country)
(Fine & Country)

A four-bedroom house in Shoreditch where Tracey Emin and Sarah Lucas opened their legendary shop 31 years ago is now up for sale for £1.5 million.

The artist pair moved in to the premises, a former doctor’s surgery on Redchurch Street, in the first week of January 1993 and ran it as The Shop for six fleeting but now heavily mythologised months before closing it with a bang with Emin’s 30th birthday party on July 3 the same year.

Brian Gurtler, the house’s current owner, moved in on a five-year lease. When the landlord decided to sell the building in 1999, Gurtler mustered up £120,000 and bought it.

Gurtler had moved to Shoreditch after finishing art school in the mid-Eighties in search of a cheap live-work space to start his t-shirt printing business from, describing the area at the time as “desolate”.

 (Fine & Country)
(Fine & Country)

Gradually more artists started to move to the area and it started to be known as an edgy but fashionable place to be.

When The Shop opened, Gurtler went to check it out. “I went in there and said your shirts are crap, you want a proper printer,” he says. “She was writing in marker pens, I was printing proper t-shirts round the corner. She looked at me like I was a nutter.”

The Shop’s hours were weekdays 11-6 and Saturdays 11pm until Sunday afternoon. Understandably, it was closed on Mondays.

“Back then, nearly every shop on Brick Lane was boarded up – everywhere was, in fact,” Emin recalled in the Guardian.

 (Fine & Country)
(Fine & Country)

The pair made and sold a selection of “really puerile” items, from badges reading ‘Help me’ and ‘So boring’ to flash during tedious conversations, to badges and t-shirts with obscene slogans.

Lucas recalled the sound of rats scratching if they went upstairs to sleep in their sleeping bags, claiming it was preferable to stay up all night drinking.

Prices started at 50p and went up to £500 for the then more-established Lucas’s actual artworks. As Emin says: “God knows how much it would all be worth today”.

When he first moved in to the building, Gurtler says he hired a skip and threw in various pieces Emin and Lucas had left behind. “I threw about £250,000-worth of art into a skip,” he says.

 (Fine & Country)
(Fine & Country)

The Shop played a role both in the building of the YBA scene and London’s position as an international art world power player, and in the turnaround in the fortunes of the East End.

After Gurtler took over the building he converted it into the home that is up for sale today, reinstating original features and replacing the unheated outdoor toilet with a bathroom fit for the 21st century.

The ground floor shop was used by his wife, Dot, who ran a bespoke childrenswear brand, Purple Shop Shoreditch there, while there is also an art studio and dark room on the premises.

Gurtler converted the former coal hole in the basement into a separate one-bedroom flat.

 (Fine & Country)
(Fine & Country)

Over the almost forty years he has lived in Shoreditch, Gurtler has watched the area’s transformation from cheap and characterful to the glossy but arguably less interesting place it is now.

“It was a place people came because it was cheap. Now it’s a place people leave because it’s expensive,” he says.

In the intervening years Gurtler was rubbing shoulders with creative locals including Rachel Whiteread, whose children went to the same school as his, to Jarvis Cocker and Gavin Turk.

But, following the death of his wife five years ago, he has decided to move on and out of Shoreditch.

“I came here because it was cheap and quiet I could get really nice Indian food for nothing I didn’t have people vomiting on my doorstep because they closed the public toilets and turned them into an estate agent,” he says.

"This is a very rare find, I believe it is the only complete house on Redchurch Street," says Minna Sheehan of Fine & Country, who is managing the sale. "There's a lot of history surrounding it and it is a really quirky house."

The building has seen its price increase more than 10-fold since he moved in – Emin and Lucas’s artworks might have seen their values inflate more in those 30 years. Little else has.