GILBERT & GEORGE
1943, Italy / 1942, United Kingdom
Gilbert & George is a British Conceptual art duo best known for their performances and large-scale saturated photograph-based works. Gilbert & George define their art as anti-elitist, merging art directly into life. Their work is characterized by a humorous subversive tone that defies political correctness in exploring themes such as homosexuality, patriotism, violence and religion.
Both coming from unprivileged backgrounds, Gilbert Prousch (b. 1943 in Italy) met George Passmore (1942) in 1967 when studying sculpture at the St Martin’s College of Art in London. From there, they became one artist but two persons: Gilbert & George. In their first major performance, Singing Sculptures (1969 – 1970), they represented themselves as singing living sculptures with their heads and hands covered in metallic make-up, dressed up with matching tweed suits that later became their artistic identity.
Their provocative art practice disturbed the social norms of their times by displaying images of sexual acts, bodily fluids, scatological references or swear words in brightly colored compositions where they often incorporate self-portraits. Initially using various mediums to express their ideas, they essentially focused on acidly colored photography. They won the prestigious Turner Prize in 1986 and have been granted Honorary Doctorates from various universities. Since the 2000’s, all their work is made digitally as illustrated by the iconic series Jack Freak Pictures (2009). In 2005, they represented the United Kingdom at the Venice Biennale. Two years later, they even got married after having had the largest retrospective ever set up at the Tate Modern, in London (2007).
Their work can be found in the permanent collections of major institutions such as the Tate Modern (London), the MoMA and the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum (New York City), the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago (Chicago), and the Stedelijk Museum (Amsterdam), among others.
Gilbert & George currently live and work in the area of Spitalfields, East London, always appearing publicly together and wearing matching tweed suits.