Gilbert & George

Gilbert & George. Photo: Tom Oldham

 

The London-based artist duo Gilbert & George (Gilbert Proesch *1943 and George Passmore *1942) consider themselves to be “living sculptures.” Their anti-elitist, conceptual oeuvre, which incorporates photography, collage, performance and drawing, documents the social and physical aspects of life and is characterized by a strong autobiographical stance. Even while challenging the earnest pieties of contemporary art, the duo always aims for a wide audience.

 

Read more

Gilbert & George have been working together since 1967, when they first met at St. Martin’s School of Art in London. In a deliberate departure from the then-dominant practice of formalist sculpture, the duo developed a concept of a social sculpture that removes the division between art and life. Their radical idea of “living sculpture” declared everything that they did to be art—from their day-to-day life as a couple to “classical” art production. In that sense all of their works, regardless of the medium in which they appear, can be understood as a form of “sculpture.” The now legendary performance The Singing Sculpture (1969) stands as an early example of the practice: Metallic pigment on their faces and hands, dressed in the immaculate suits that would become their trademark, Gilbert & George stood on a table (a stand-in for a traditional pedestal) and sang the sentimental music-hall hit “Underneath the Arches.” The live sculpture lasted for seven hours—a typical working day— and was performed on several consecutive days.

That same period saw the development of another groundbreaking work known as George the Cunt and Gilbert the Shit (1969), a collage comprised of two double self-portraits of the artists. The parallel photographs show the smiling men in their suit and tie, each adorned with a rose boutonniere. The paper letters pinned to the artists’ chests that spell out the obscene phrases that give the work its title conflicts with their genial, relaxed appearance. The precarious balance between conservative self-staging and sexually explicit, socially provocative content set a tone for the duo’s later œuvre.

The later, large-scale “pictures” are some of the most iconic works in contemporary art. Here Gilbert & George combine altered or manipulated photographs with graphic and textual elements and arrange them in a characteristic grid structure. Formally the works play with the visual language of such disparate sources as the stained glass windows of the Victorian-era Arts & Craft movement, punk, graphic design or magazine aesthetics. Various, thematically focused series show the duo not only documenting their lives and their living environment, but also the social upheavals of their time. The artists regard their work as a journey through life that resembles a modern “Pilgrim’s Progress”. Whereas early series including Bloody Life (1975) still hermetically captured their everyday existence, others such as The 1982 Pictures (1982) expanded their visual repertoire to include plants, male nudes, and urban scenes. Bearing such distinct titles as Sperm Eaters or Hard Cocks, a number of these pictures deal with homosexual themes. Some series including The 1988 Pictures (1988) or Shitty Naked Human World (1994) have to be read in the context of the AIDS crisis. The later Sonofagod Pictures (2005) series with associated works such as Was Jesus a Heterosexual? show a liberating confrontation with religious discourses, while The Paradisiacal Pictures (2019) can be understood as a psychedelic-allegorical meditation on old age, infirmity and death, and the universal human need for a spiritual or secular paradise.

Though visually and textually explicit and relentlessly challenging social taboos, Gilbert & George’s work is never meant to shock viewers. On the contrary, their critique of the times and exploration of sexual aspects opens what they hope to be a radical, non-judgmental space for all facets of humanity.

 

Gilbert & George: The Early Years
Museum of Modern Art, New York, May 9–September 27, 2015

Works
Gilbert & George
Gilbert & George
ON THE BENCH, 2019

Gilbert & George
ON THE BENCH, 2019
Mixed media
301 × 568 cm
118 1/2 × 223 5/8 inches

Gilbert & George
Gilbert & George
GREENLY, 2019

Gilbert & George
GREENLY, 2019
Mixed media
151 × 127 cm
59 1/2 × 50 inches

Gilbert & George
Gilbert & George
ROSY, 2019

Gilbert & George
ROSY, 2019
Mixed media
226 × 316 cm
89 × 124 3/8 inches

Gilbert & George
Gilbert & George
ROSEMANCE, 2019

Gilbert & George
ROSEMANCE, 2019
Mixed media
226 × 263 cm
89 × 103 1/2 inches

Gilbert & George
Gilbert & George
FIGGED, 2019

Gilbert & George
FIGGED, 2019
Mixed media
151 × 127 cm
59 1/2 × 50 inches

Gilbert & George
Gilbert & George
CHAIN BRAIN, 2019

Gilbert & George
CHAIN BRAIN, 2019
Mixed media
226 × 505 cm
89 × 198 7/8 inches

Gilbert & George
Gilbert & George
LEFT BEHIND, 2019

Gilbert & George
LEFT BEHIND, 2019
Mixed media
226 × 253 cm
89 × 99 5/8 inches

Gilbert & George
Gilbert & George
DATE HEADS, 2019

Gilbert & George
DATE HEADS, 2019
Mixed media
151 × 127 cm
59 1/2 × 50 inches

Gilbert & George
Gilbert & George
SEXPARTITE, 2019

Gilbert & George
SEXPARTITE, 2019
Mixed media
301 × 505 cm
118 1/2 × 198 7/8 inches

Gilbert & George
Gilbert & George
EATEN MESS, 2019

Gilbert & George
EATEN MESS, 2019
Mixed media
190 × 301 cm
74 7/8 × 118 1/2 inches

Gilbert & George
Gilbert & George
TENDER, 2019

Gilbert & George
TENDER, 2019
Mixed media
226 × 253 cm
89 × 99 5/8 inches

Gilbert & George
Gilbert & George
ANTHERS, 2019

Gilbert & George
ANTHERS, 2019
Mixed media
190 × 451 cm
74 7/8 × 177 5/8 inches

More views
Details
Gilbert & George

Gilbert & George
ON THE BENCH, 2019
Mixed media
301 × 568 cm
118 1/2 × 223 5/8 inches

Gilbert & George
ON THE BENCH, 2019
Gilbert & George

Gilbert & George
GREENLY, 2019
Mixed media
151 × 127 cm
59 1/2 × 50 inches

Gilbert & George
GREENLY, 2019
Gilbert & George

Gilbert & George
ROSY, 2019
Mixed media
226 × 316 cm
89 × 124 3/8 inches

Gilbert & George
ROSY, 2019
Gilbert & George

Gilbert & George
ROSEMANCE, 2019
Mixed media
226 × 263 cm
89 × 103 1/2 inches

Gilbert & George
ROSEMANCE, 2019
Gilbert & George

Gilbert & George
FIGGED, 2019
Mixed media
151 × 127 cm
59 1/2 × 50 inches

Gilbert & George
FIGGED, 2019
Gilbert & George

Gilbert & George
CHAIN BRAIN, 2019
Mixed media
226 × 505 cm
89 × 198 7/8 inches

Gilbert & George
CHAIN BRAIN, 2019
Gilbert & George

Gilbert & George
LEFT BEHIND, 2019
Mixed media
226 × 253 cm
89 × 99 5/8 inches

Gilbert & George
LEFT BEHIND, 2019
Gilbert & George

Gilbert & George
DATE HEADS, 2019
Mixed media
151 × 127 cm
59 1/2 × 50 inches

Gilbert & George
DATE HEADS, 2019
Gilbert & George

Gilbert & George
SEXPARTITE, 2019
Mixed media
301 × 505 cm
118 1/2 × 198 7/8 inches

Gilbert & George
SEXPARTITE, 2019
Gilbert & George

Gilbert & George
EATEN MESS, 2019
Mixed media
190 × 301 cm
74 7/8 × 118 1/2 inches

Gilbert & George
EATEN MESS, 2019
Gilbert & George

Gilbert & George
TENDER, 2019
Mixed media
226 × 253 cm
89 × 99 5/8 inches

Gilbert & George
TENDER, 2019
Gilbert & George

Gilbert & George
ANTHERS, 2019
Mixed media
190 × 451 cm
74 7/8 × 177 5/8 inches

Gilbert & George
ANTHERS, 2019
Gilbert & George
Gilbert & George

Gilbert & George
ANTHERS, 2019 (detail)

Gilbert & George
ANTHERS, 2019
Details
icon_fullscreen
1 of 12

 

Current and Upcoming
Gilbert & George
Photo: Gilbert & George, BEARDARY, 2016 Courtesy Gilbert & George

Gilbert & George
Gilbert & George: The Great Exhibition
Schirn Kunsthalle Frankfurt, Frankfurt Am Main
February 12–May 16, 2021

Gilbert & George have been creating art together now for over half a century. Their outstanding body of work is still as explosive as it is significant. The SCHIRN is dedicating an extensive retrospective to the visually powerful and sometimes provocative universe of this eccentric, London-based artist duo, showing works from 1971 until 2019. As both subject and object of their own work, Gilbert & George form a complete artistic unity that draws no distinction between art and life. As “living sculptures,” they embody their art and are both topic and focal point of their large-format collages and screened pictorial worlds. Their work revolves around death, hope, life, fear, sex, money, and religion. These are also soci­etal issues, which they depict in all their contra­dic­tions: at once joyful and tragic, grotesque and serious, surreal and symbolic. The duo deal with every­thing that makes us uneasy. Their goal, however, is not to shock, but rather to make visible what is happening in the world, according to their motto “Art for All".

Link
Exhibitions at Sprüth Magers
Gilbert & George

Gilbert & George
THE PARADISICAL PICTURES
November 16, 2019–January 27, 2020
Los Angeles

Gilbert & George have created art together as one visionary, artistic entity since 1967, when they met at Saint Martins School of Art in London. Recognized by institutions and collections worldwide for their groundbreaking, fiercely independent and influential art across diverse mediums, they continue to produce confrontational, richly emotive and thought-provoking art that, more than fifty years later, pushes into ever-new territory. Sprüth Magers is honored to début Gilbert & George’s PARADISICAL PICTURES, a new group of thirty-five major pictures that mark the artists’ first solo exhibition in Los Angeles in nearly two decades.

Read more
Press

At Astrup Fearnley Museet there is a big solo show dedicated to the eccentric artistic duo…
Kooness, article by Daniel Birnbaum and Hans Ulrich Obrist, October 9, 2019

Provocative pictures: Gilbert & George discuss their new exhibition at The MAC
The Irish Times, article by David Roy, January 25, 2018

Studio Visit: Gilbert & George
Elephant, interview by Robert Shore, October 11, 2017

Gilbert & George: ‘It’s G&G! We’re a Brand!’
Financial Times, article by Rachel Spence, September 1, 2017

Review: Gilbert & George in the Early Days, Sending Up a Religion Called Art
The New York Times, review by Ken Johnson, September 3, 2015

At Home with Gilbert & George: ‘It has to be immaculate in order for us to make all these unpleasant pictures’
The Guardian, article by Edward Paginton, May 19, 2015

The Human Theater of Gilbert & George
Art in America, article by Michael Duncan, October 2008

Gilbert & George on Gilbert & George
Art Monthly, interview by Andrew Wilson, April 1990

Gilbert & George: Talked to / Written on
Parkett, article by Duncan Fallowell, 1987

Art: Gilbert and George, Duo who work as solo
The New York Times, article by Michael Breson, April 26, 1985

Biography

Gilbert & George (*1943, San Martin de Tor; *1942, Plymouth) met in 1967 as graduate students at Saint Martin’s School of Art in London and have worked together ever since. Recent solo exhibitions include those at Fondation Louis Vuitton, Paris (2019), Moderna Museet, Stockholm (2019), Helsinki Art Museum (2018–19), Ludwig Museum of Contemporary Art, Budapest (2017), Museum of Old and New Art, Tasmania (2016), and Museum of Modern Art, New York (2015), Nouveau Musée National de Monaco (2014); Deichtorhallen Hamburg (2011); Łaźnia Centre for Contemporary Art, Gdansk (2011), Kröller-Müller Museum, Otterlo (2010), De Young Museum, San Francisco (2008), Milwaukee Art Museum, WI (2008), Brooklyn Museum, New York (2008); and Tate Modern (2007). In 2005, Gilbert & George were the focus of the British Pavilion at the 51st Venice Biennale. Selected group exhibitions include The Warehouse, Dallas (2017), The Jewish Museum, New York (2016), The Drawing Center, New York (2016), Kunstmuseum Liechtenstein, Vaduz (2014), Nottingham Contemporary (2014), Institute of Contemporary Art, London (2013), Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York (2013), Mathaf: Arab Museum of Modern Art, Doha (2012), Gropius Bau, Berlin (2012); Hong Kong Heritage Museum (2011), and Kunsthaus Zürich (2011).

Education
Gilbert
St Martin's School of Art, London
Academy of Fine Arts, Munich
Hallein School of Art
Wolkenstein School of Art
George
St Martin's School of Art, London
Oxford Art School
Dartington Hall College of Art
Dartington Adult Education Centre
Public Collections
Art Gallery of South Australia, Adelaide
Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney
Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago
Berardo Museum, Lisbon
Brooklyn Museum, New York
CAPC Musée d'Art Contemporain de Bordeaux
Castello di Rivoli Museum of Contemporary Art, Turin
Cleveland Museum of Art
Guggenheim Museum Bilbao
Irish Museum of Modern Art, Dublin
Istanbul Modern Art Museum
Magasin 3, Stockholm
Malmö Art Museum
MAXXI, Rome
Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York
Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth, TX
Museum Ludwig, Cologne
Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago
Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles
Museum of Contemporary Art, Sydney
Museum of Fine Arts, Santa Fe, NM
Museum of Modern Art, New York
National Galleries of Scotland, Edinburgh
National Museums, Liverpool
National Museums, Holywood
North Carolina Museum of Art, Raleigh, NC
Nouveau Musée National de Monaco
Palmer Museum of Art, Penn State University, University Park, PA
Philadelphia Museum of Art, Philadelphia, PA Queensland Art Gallery, Brisbane
San Francisco Museum of Modern Art
Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York
Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam
Stedelijk Museum voor Actuele Kunst (S.M.A.K.), Ghent
Tate, London
Whitworth Art Gallery, Manchester