Gilbert & George

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
Gilbert & George
Erik Pevernagie with Gilbert and George, Sept 2012.jpg
Gilbert and George in 2012 with the artist Erik Pevernagie
Born Gilbert Prousch (or Proesch) and George Passmore
(1943-09-17) 17 September 1943 (age 73) San Martin de Tor, Italy (Gilbert) and (1942 -01-08) 8 January 1942 (age 75) Plymouth, United Kingdom (George)
Education Saint Martin's School of Art
Awards Regione 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 in San Martin de Tor, Italy) and George Passmore (born 8 January 1942 in Plymouth, United Kingdom) are two artists who work together as a collaborative duo called Gilbert & George. They are known for their distinctive and highly formal appearance and manner and also for their brightly coloured graphic-style photo-based artworks.

Early lives[edit]

Prousch was born in San Martin de Tor in South Tyrol, northern Italy, his mother tongue being Ladin.[6] 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.

Passmore was born in Plymouth in the United Kingdom, to a single mother in a poor household. He studied art at the Dartington College of Arts and the Oxford School of Art.

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".[7] They have claimed that they married in 2008.[6] They are often seen together on walks through East London.

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.[8] 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."[6]


Gilbert and George's 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, but have always referred to all works as sculpture. 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'.[9][10]

Singing and living sculptures[edit]

Whilst still students, Gilbert & George made The Singing Sculpture, which was first performed at Nigel Greenwood Gallery in 1970.[11] 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. The suits they wore for this became a sort of 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 disassociate 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.[12]

The Pictures[edit]

The pair are perhaps best 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".[13] They have described their "pictures" as a sort of "visual love letter from us to the viewer".[14]

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.

A book, The Complete Pictures, 1971–2005, published in 2007 by Tate Modern, includes over a thousand examples of their art.[15]

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.[16]

In 2000, they moved galleries to be represented by White Cube and since 2009 by ARNDT in Berlin.

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 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.[17]


In 1981, Gilbert & George won the Regione Lazio Award (Torino), in 1986, the Turner Prize, and in 1989, the Special International Award (Los Angeles).

In 2005, they represented the UK at the Venice Biennale. Their 2007 retrospective at Tate Modern was the largest of any of the artists who have had retrospectives there.[6]

In 2007, they won the South Bank Award, as well as the Lorenzo il Magnifico Award (Florence).

In December 2008, Gilbert & George were awarded Honorary Doctorates by London Metropolitan University.[citation needed]

In October 2010, Gilbert & George were awarded the honorary title "Magister Artium Gandensis" by University College Ghent.[18]

In November 2010, Gilbert & George were conferred with Honorary Doctorates by the University of East London.[19]

In March 2012, Gilbert & George were conferred with Honorary Doctorates by the Open University.[20]

In 2013, Gilbert & George were awarded Honorary Doctorates of Arts from Plymouth University[21]

Political stances[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."[6] The duo are monarchists and have said of the Prince of Wales: "We're also fond of the Prince of Wales: he's a gentleman."[6]

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.
  • In the book Man, Machine and Music, Pascale Bussy claims that the look Kraftwerk adopted between 1974 and 1978 was partly inspired by Gilbert & George.[22] Ralf and Florian by its very title put the group on a first name familiarity with the record-buying public. Adopting their respective first names may well have been influenced by the performance art duo Gilbert and George who from the late sixties onward worked exclusively as a single artistic unit under their first names.[23]
  • Jim Moir 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".[24]
  • David Bowie was known to collect the work of Gilbert & George [4]


  1. ^ documenta Archiv: Gilbert Prousch
  2. ^ "Ćiasa Nadè. — SMACH.". 27 September 2013. Archived from the original on 27 September 2013. 
  3. ^ Guggenheim Collection: Biography
  4. ^ Encyclopaedia Britannica: Gilbert and George
  5. ^ The Oxford history of the twentieth century. Oxford University Press. 1998. p. 442. ISBN 978-0-19-820428-2. 
  6. ^ a b c d e f Daily Telegraph: Gilbert and George: 'Margaret Thatcher did a lot for art'
  7. ^ Interview with Gilbert & George, Daily Telegraph, 28 May 2002
  8. ^ 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. 
  9. ^ "Gilbert & George - Tate". Tate. Retrieved 1 June 2015. 
  10. ^
  11. ^ The Guardian: Nicholas Serota's obituary of Nigel Greenwood, 21 April 2004
  12. ^ Cartner-Morley, Jess; Mirren, Helen; Huffington, Arianna; Amos, Valerie (28 March 2013). "The 50 best-dressed over 50s". The Guardian. London. 
  13. ^ London Evening Standard "…debate over religion and patriotism."
  14. ^ "Gilbert & George deshock at Rivoli". ITALY Magazine. Retrieved 1 June 2015. 
  15. ^ Robert Ayers (14 August 2007). "Gilbert & George Are Workaholics". ARTINFO. Retrieved 15 April 2008 
  16. ^ Imagine, documentary aired on BBC television, 8 May 2007
  17. ^ White Cube. "Exhibitions - White Cube". Retrieved 1 June 2015. 
  18. ^ Tollenaere, Rudy. [1] Nieuwsblad. 8 October 2010.
  19. ^ "East London the place to be", say ground-breaking artists [2] University of East London 25 November 2010.
  20. ^ Andrew Brewerton awards Honorary Degree to Gilbert & George [3] Plymouth College of Art, 25 May 2012.
  21. ^
  22. ^ Bussy, Pascal (1993). Kraftwerk—Man, Machine & Music. SAF Publishing. ISBN 978-0-946719-70-9. 
  23. ^ Bussy, Pascal. (2004), Kraftwerk: Man, Machine and Music, SAF Publishing LTD, p.46.
  24. ^ Walsh, John (26 September 2009). "Funny peculiar: The curious world of Vic Reeves". The Independent. 

Further reading[edit]

  • Jonquet, François (2005), Intimate Conversation, London: Phaidon
  • 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
  • Jahn, Wolf (1989), The Art of Gilbert & George. New York: Thames & Hudson
  • Jonquet, François (2005), Intimate Conversation, London: Phaidon
  • Rosenblum, Robert (2004), Introducing Gilbert & George, London: Thames & Hudson
  • The Words of Gilbert & George, Violette Editions, London, 1997 ISBN 978-1-900828-03-1

Exhibition catalogues[edit]

  • 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

External links[edit]