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Gilbert & George

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Gilbert & George
Gilbert (left) and George (right) in 2007
BornGilbert Prousch
(1943-09-17) 17 September 1943 (age 80)
San Martin de Tor, Italy
George Passmore
(1942-01-08) 8 January 1942 (age 82)
Plymouth, England
EducationSaint Martin's School of Art
AwardsRegione Lazio Award (Torino, 1981)
Turner Prize (1986)
Special International Award (Los Angeles, 1989)
South Bank Award (2007)
Lorenzo il Magnifico Award (Florence, 2007)

Gilbert Prousch,[1][2] sometimes referred to as Gilbert Proesch[3][4][5] (born 17 September 1943), and George Passmore (born 8 January 1942) are artists who work together as the collaborative art duo Gilbert & George. They are known for their formal appearance and manner in performance art, and for their brightly coloured graphic-style photo-based artworks. In 2017 the pair celebrated their 50th anniversary as collaborators.[6] In April 2023 Gilbert & George opened the Gilbert & George Centre in Heneage Street, London E1, to showcase their work in regular exhibitions.[7]

Early lives[edit]

Gilbert Prousch was born in San Martin de Tor in South Tyrol, northern Italy, his native language being Ladin.[8] He studied art at the Sëlva School of Art in Val Gardena and Hallein School of Art in Austria and the Akademie der Kunst, Munich, before moving to England.

George Passmore was born in Plymouth in the United Kingdom, to a single mother in a low-income household. He dropped out of regular school by the time he was fifteen years old and studied art at Dartington College of Arts and then Oxford School of Art.[9]

The two first met on 25 September 1967 while studying sculpture at Saint Martin's School of Art. The two claim they came together because George was the only person who could understand Gilbert's rather poor English. In a 2002 interview with The Daily Telegraph, they said of their meeting: "it was love at first sight".[10] They married in 2008.[8] They are often seen together on walks through East London.[11]

Since 1968, Gilbert & George have been residents of Fournier Street, Spitalfields, East London. They live in an 18th-century house that has been restored to its original decor.[12] Their entire body of work has been created in, and focused on, London's East End, which they see as a microcosm. According to George, "Nothing happens in the world that doesn't happen in the East End."[8]


Gilbert and George claim that their approach to art has always been anti-elitist. Adopting the slogan 'Art for All', they aimed to be relevant beyond the narrow confines of the art world. Although they work in a variety of media, they have always referred to all of their works as "sculpture".[citation needed]

Between 1970 and 1974 they made drawings (referred to as 'Charcoal on Paper Sculptures') and paintings to give a more tangible form to their identity as 'living sculptures'.[13][14]

One of their first notable works of art was a photographic self-portrait of them wearing their trademark suits. George the Cunt and Gilbert the Shit was so titled to forestall criticism.[15]

Singing and living sculptures[edit]

Whilst still students, Gilbert & George made The Singing Sculpture, which was performed at the National Jazz and Blues Festival in 1969 and at the Nigel Greenwood Gallery in 1970.[16] For this performance they covered their heads and hands in multi-coloured metalised powders, stood on a table, and sang along and moved to a recording of Flanagan and Allen's song "Underneath the Arches", sometimes for a day at a time.[17] The suits they wore for this became a uniform for them. They rarely appear in public without wearing them.

It is also unusual for one of the pair to be seen without the other. The pair regard themselves as "living sculptures". They refuse to dissociate their art from their everyday lives, insisting that everything they do is art. They were listed as among the fifty best-dressed over-50s by The Guardian in March 2013.[18]

The Pictures[edit]

G and G (1973) at the National Gallery of Art in 2022

The pair are known for their large scale photo works, known as The Pictures. The early work in this style is in black and white, later with hand-painted red and yellow touches. They proceeded to use a range of bolder colours, sometimes backlit, and overlaid with black grids. Their work has addressed a wide variety of subject matter including religion and patriotism. The two artists also often appear in their own "pictures".[19] They have described their "pictures" as a sort of "visual love letter from us to the viewer".[20]

In 1986, Gilbert & George were criticised for a series of pictures seemingly glamourising 'rough types' of London's East End such as skinheads, while a picture of an Asian man bore the title "Paki". Some of their work has attracted media attention because of the inclusion of (potentially) shocking imagery, such as nudity, depictions of sexual acts, and bodily fluids (faeces, urine and semen). The titles of these works, such as Naked Shit Pictures (1994) and Sonofagod Pictures (2005), also contributed to the attention.

The pair starred in a Documentary series in 1997 for LWT. It went on to win the BAFTA Award for the best documentary series.[21][22] A book, The Complete Pictures, 1971–2005, published in 2007 by Tate Modern, includes over a thousand examples of their art.[23]

In May 2007, Gilbert & George were the subject of the BBC documentary Imagine, presented by Alan Yentob. At the end of the programme a picture entitled 'Planed' was made available as a free file download from the BBC and The Guardian websites for 48 hours. People who downloaded the files could then print and assemble the piece, and thus own an original Gilbert and George picture for free.[24]

Jack Freak Pictures[edit]

Jack Freak Pictures is, to date, the largest series of work created by Gilbert & George. According to Michael Bracewell "the Jack Freak Pictures are among the most iconic, philosophically astute and visually violent works that Gilbert & George have ever created." The Union Jack and Gilbert & George are the two dominant pictorial images – appearing contorted, abstracted, and sometimes complete. The entire series is set in the East End of London indicated by flags, maps, street signs, graffiti and other less obvious motifs such as brickwork and foliage that can be found there.

After showing at White Cube's Hoxton and Mason Yard galleries in 2009 the exhibition travelled to the Croatian Museum of Contemporary Art, Zagreb; The Kröller-Müller Museum, the Netherlands; Centro de Arte Contemporaneo de Malaga, Spain; Arndt & Partner gallery, Berlin; the Baronian Francey Gallery, Brussels; and the Bozar Center for Fine Arts, Brussels.[25]

Later work[edit]

During lockdown amid the COVID-19 pandemic, Gilbert & George started an online video diary, posting weekly updates on life in their newly limited circumstances. The bulletins, often short films, were a continuation of their usual creative habit of documenting social change.[26]

Awards and honours[edit]

Gilbert & George have received acclaim with extensive solo exhibitions in the UK, USA, France, the Netherlands, Switzerland, Germany, Spain, Austria, Denmark, Finland, Russia and China; numerous Honorary Doctorates from academic institutions including Plymouth University; and awards such as the Special International Award, the South Bank Award and the Lorenzo il Magnifico Award. In 1986 they won the Turner Prize which is widely considered to be the UK's most prestigious contemporary art award. In 2005 they represented the UK at the Venice Biennale.[27]

In 2017, Gilbert & George were elected to the Royal Academy of Arts; in 2020, however, they resigned from the academy in reaction to a decision not to go ahead with an exhibition they had been planning to stage in its galleries.[26]

Notable honours include:

Political stance[edit]

Gilbert & George claim to be an oddity in the artistic world because of their openly conservative political views and their praise for Margaret Thatcher. George claims never to have been anti-establishment: "You're not allowed to be Conservative in the art world, of course," he says. "Left equals good. Art equals Left. Pop stars and artists are meant to be so original. So how come everyone has the same opinion? ... We admire Margaret Thatcher greatly. She did a lot for art. Socialism wants everyone to be equal. We want to be different."[8] Both are supportive of Brexit and the Conservative Party.[35] The duo are monarchists and have said of the King, at the time Prince of Wales: "We're also fond of the Prince of Wales: he's a gentleman."[8] In a Guardian interview, they said that they opposed the removal of statues after the George Floyd protests, saying that "they're part of the city" and that their removal is "shameful".[36]

Influence and legacy[edit]

Gilbert & George inspired two characters, Man Green and Man Yellow, Chief Constables of the Science Gestapo, in Grant Morrison's comicbook series The Filth. The two characters appear in pastiches of Gilbert & George's artwork, with the separate sections of the imagery acting as individual comic book panels. The look that electronic music band Kraftwerk adopted between 1974 and 1978, with men in suits wearing ties, was partly inspired by Gilbert & George: musicians Florian Schneider and Ralf Hütter had seen an exhibition of the artists in Düsseldorf in 1970 and were inspired by the idea of "bringing art into everyday life".[37] Vic Reeves has explained to The Independent that Vic Reeves Big Night Out was initially thought of as "performance art, like Gilbert and George's singing sculpture".[38] David Bowie was a collector of the artists' work.[39]

On 1 April 2023, the Gilbert & George Centre was inaugurated on Heneage Street (near Aldgate East station). It features 3 gallery spaces[40] in a building redesigned in 2017 by SIRS Architects with sustainability in mind.[41]



  1. ^ documenta Archiv: Gilbert Prousch
  2. ^ "Ćiasa Nadè. – SMACH". 27 September 2013. Archived from the original on 27 September 2013.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: bot: original URL status unknown (link)
  3. ^ "Gilbert & George". Guggenheim Collection. Archived from the original on 18 March 2014.
  4. ^ "Gilbert and George". Encyclopædia Britannica. Retrieved 25 April 2021.
  5. ^ The Oxford history of the twentieth century. Oxford University Press. 1998. p. 442. ISBN 978-0-19-820428-2.
  6. ^ Jones, Jonathan (15 November 2017). "'We say what we want' … Gilbert and George look back on 50 years of filth, fury and in-your-face art". The Guardian. Retrieved 9 June 2024.
  7. ^ Thorpe, Vanessa (1 April 2023). "Most amusing: Gilbert and George welcome the public to their own gallery". The Guardian. Retrieved 18 April 2023.
  8. ^ a b c d e f van Praagh, Anna (5 July 2009). "Gilbert and George: 'Margaret Thatcher did a lot for art'". The Daily Telegraph. Archived from the original on 8 July 2009. Retrieved 25 April 2021.
  9. ^ "Gilbert and George". The Art Story. 2008–2024. Retrieved 16 January 2024.
  10. ^ Interview with Gilbert & George, The Daily Telegraph, 28 May 2002
  11. ^ Seymour, Tom (24 March 2023). "'A place for us to show our living journey as artists': Gilbert & George opening London art centre". The Art Newspaper. Retrieved 9 June 2024.
  12. ^ Paginton, Edward (19 May 2015). "At home with Gilbert & George: 'It has to be immaculate in order for us to make all these unpleasant pictures'". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 23 October 2015.
  13. ^ "Gilbert & George". Tate Etc. Archived from the original on 20 April 2014. Retrieved 1 June 2015.
  14. ^ "Gilber and George Biography". Art Republic. Archived from the original on 17 March 2014. Retrieved 25 April 2021.
  15. ^ Jeffries, Stuart (24 June 2009). "Gilbert and George: the odd couple". The Guardian. Retrieved 16 July 2018.
  16. ^ Serota, Nicholas (21 April 2004). "Nigel Greenwood (obituary)". The Guardian. Retrieved 25 April 2021.
  17. ^ Wroe, Nicholas (2 March 2012). "Gilbert & George: Lives in Art". The Guardian. Retrieved 25 April 2021.
  18. ^ Cartner-Morley, Jess; Mirren, Helen; Huffington, Arianna; Amos, Valerie (28 March 2013). "The 50 best-dressed over 50s". The Guardian. London.
  19. ^ Greig, Georgie (11 May 2009). "Jesus and an Unholy Union Flag". Evening Standard. Archived from the original on 17 October 2009. Retrieved 25 April 2021. In their new show they stir up debate over religion and patriotism.
  20. ^ "Gilbert & George deshock at Rivoli". ITALY Magazine. Archived from the original on 28 January 2013. Retrieved 1 June 2015.
  21. ^ "The Fundamental Gilbert and George". Gerry Fox | Gerald Fox - filmmaker and artist. Retrieved 29 April 2023.
  22. ^ "The South Bank Show" Gilbert and George: Part 1 (TV Episode 1997) - IMDb, retrieved 29 April 2023
  23. ^ Ayers, Robert (14 August 2007). "Gilbert & George Are Workaholics". ARTINFO. Archived from the original on 18 April 2008. Retrieved 25 April 2021.
  24. ^ Imagine, documentary aired on BBC television, 8 May 2007
  25. ^ "Gilbert & George: Jack Freak Pictures". White Cube.
  26. ^ a b Thorpe, Vanessa (12 July 2020). "Gilbert and George quit Royal Academy over dashed hopes for major exhibition". The Guardian. Retrieved 25 April 2021.
  27. ^ "History Centre Heroes: Gilbert and George". Plymouth Museums Galleries Archives. 2016. Retrieved 20 October 2017.
  28. ^ "Honorary graduates - London Metropolitan University". londonmet.ac.uk. Retrieved 5 February 2019.
  29. ^ Tollenaere, Rudy (8 October 2010). "Hogeschool Gent geeft eerste Magister Artium Gandensis aan kunstenaarsduo Gilbert en George". Nieuwsblad (in Dutch).
  30. ^ ""East London the place to be", say ground-breaking artists". University of East London. 25 November 2010. Archived from the original on 18 February 2011. Retrieved 25 April 2021.
  31. ^ "Professor Andrew Brewerton Presented Notorious Artists Gilbert & George with Honorary Doctorates at The Open University Conferment of Degrees Ceremony at the Barbican in London on Saturday 31 March". Plymouth College of Art Portal. Archived from the original on 23 July 2012. Retrieved 25 April 2021.
  32. ^ "Gilbert and George - Doctorate of Arts". Celebrate with Plymouth University. Archived from the original on 17 October 2013. Retrieved 25 April 2021.
  33. ^ Royal Academy, 20 October 2017
  34. ^ "Gilbert and George quit Royal Academy over dashed hopes for major exhibition". TheGuardian.com. 12 July 2020.
  35. ^ Michael Prodger (November 2019). "The Critic Interview: Gilbert and George". The Critic. Retrieved 1 March 2021.
  36. ^ Jonathan Jones (1 March 2021). "Gilbert and George on their epic Covid artworks: 'This is an enormously sad time'". The Guardian. Retrieved 1 March 2021.
  37. ^ Rogers, Jude (27 January 2013). "Why Kraftwerk are still the world's most influential band". The Observer. Retrieved 27 January 2013.
  38. ^ Walsh, John (26 September 2009). "Funny peculiar: The curious world of Vic Reeves". The Independent.
  39. ^ "The A-list collection: celebrity-owned art". The National. Abu Dhabi. 17 March 2010. Retrieved 25 April 2021.
  40. ^ ‘Most amusing’: Gilbert and George welcome the public to their own gallery, The Guardian, April 1st, 2023.
  41. ^ The Gilbert & George Centre, in gilbertandgeorgecentre.org

Further reading

  • Baudino, Isabelle; Gautheron, Marie, eds. (2005), Gilbert & George, E1, Lyon: ENS Editions (to accompany an exhibition at the Musée d'art moderne de Saint-Etienne, parallel French and English texts)
  • Dutt, Robin (2004), Gilbert & George: obsessions & compulsions. London: Philip Wilson Publishers ISBN 0-85667-570-9
  • Farson, Daniel (1999), Gilbert & George: a Portrait, London: HarperCollins
  • Farson, Daniel (1991), With Gilbert & George in Moscow, London: Bloomsbury
  • Fuchs, Rudi (2007), Gilbert & George: the Complete Pictures, Tate Publishing ISBN 978-1-85437-681-7
  • Gilbert & George (1987) The Words of Gilbert & George, Violette Editions, London, ISBN 978-1-900828-03-1
  • Jahn, Wolf (2023), The Meaning of the Earth, London: Hurtwood Press ISBN 978-0-903696-53-1
  • Jahn, Wolf (1989), The art of Gilbert & George, or, An aesthetic of existence, London: Thames & Hudson ISBN 978-0-500-23545-4
  • Jonquet, François (2005), Intimate Conversation, London: Phaidon
  • Rosenblum, Robert (2004), Introducing Gilbert & George, London: Thames & Hudson

Exhibition catalogues

  • 1997: Lehmann Maupin, New York, The Fundamental Pictures
  • 2001: White Cube, London, New Horny Pictures
  • 2004: Galerie Thaddaeus Ropac, Paris, London E1 Pictures
  • 2004: Gallery Bernier/Eliades, Athens, Thirteen Hooligan Pictures
  • 2004: Sonnabend Gallery/Lehmann Maupin, New York Perversive Pictures 2004
  • 2006: White Cube, London, Sonofagod Pictures
  • 2012: White Cube, London, London Pictures
  • 2017: White Cube, London, The Beard Pictures
  • 2021: White Cube, London, New Normal Pictures
  • 2023: White Cube, London & West Palm Beach, The Corpsing Pictures

External links[edit]