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Gilbert & George

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Name: Gilbert, George

Surname: Proesch, Passmore

Nationality:

Period:

Table of Contents

Table of Contents

As you explore the fascinating lives and art of Gilbert & George, prepare to encounter a truly unique partnership. For over 50 years, Gilbert Proesch and George Passmore have collaborated as 'living sculptures' to create a provocative body of work that defies categorization. Together, they have pioneered a distinctive and controversial brand of conceptual art that incorporates photography, performance, sculpture, and more. Their lifelong partnership is as much a work of art as anything they have produced. 

As steadfast and inseparable as the royal figures they are named after, Gilbert & George have become icons of the London art world and beyond. Yet, for all their notoriety and success, they remain enigmatic and mysterious figures. This biography aims to provide insight into what has made this alliance of two very different men so enduring and influential. From their start as rebellious art students in London to their current status as elder statesmen of the avant-garde, follow the improbable lives of Gilbert & George.

Through the decades, Gilbert & George have remained dedicated to their shared artistic vision. Their unique partnership and avant-garde work will undoubtedly continue to both puzzle and delight audiences around the globe. As you reflect on their long, storied careers, you realize that beyond the controversy and shock value lies a message about individuality, society, and what it means to be human. Gilbert & George's art may not be for everyone, but for those willing to look beneath the surface, their creative world offers insight and inspiration.

Gilbert & George BIOGRAPHY

Gilbert & George
Image Credit: Crash Magazine

The Early Lives of Gilbert Prousch and George Passmore

Gilbert Prousch and George Passmore, collectively known as Gilbert & George, are two of Britain's most famous living artists. They have collaborated as a duo for over 50 years, creating provocative multimedia art that explores human identity and experience.

Gilbert Prousch was born in San Martin de Tor, Italy, in 1943, and George Passmore in Plymouth, England, in 1942. They met as students at St. Martin's School of Art in London, where they studied sculpture.

Gilbert grew up in the Dolomites of Northern Italy and moved to London to study art at age 21. George was raised in Plymouth and Torquay, England. He moved to London at 18 to pursue a career as an artist.

Drawn together by a shared vision to create art outside traditional media, they began collaborating as "Gilbert & George" in 1967. They see themselves as living sculptures, and their art blends performance, photography, and multimedia installations.

Today, Gilbert & George live and work in a house in London's East End that has become as much a part of their artistic identity as their multimedia works. They have achieved worldwide fame and success, solidifying their status as contemporary art icons. Their art provides a glimpse into the human experience in all its strange and beautiful forms.


Are Gilbert and George a couple?

No, Gilbert and George are not a couple in the romantic sense. Gilbert Proesch and George Passmore are artists who have been working together as a collaborative duo since the late 1960s. Gilbert and George married with each other in 2008. They are known for their conceptual and provocative artwork, often featuring themselves as the central subjects. Their collaboration as Gilbert & George has spanned over five decades and has significantly impacted the contemporary art world.

What is Gilbert & George known for?

Gilbert & George
Image Credit: Tate

Gilbert & George are best known for their distinctive and often controversial artwork, which includes large-scale photographs and sculptures that explore themes of identity, sexuality, religion, and social commentary. Gilbert & George's work often features themselves as the subject matter, presenting themselves as "living sculptures" or "living art." 

They have received international acclaim for their contributions to contemporary art and have been exhibited in major galleries and museums worldwide. In addition to their artistic practice, Gilbert & George have been involved in activism and are known for their outspoken views on various social and political issues. 

Career highlights

Gilbert & George
Image Credit: Tate

Gilbert & George's Artistic Partnership and Style

Gilbert & George are renowned for their artistic partnership and unique style. For over 50 years, they have created art together as 'living sculptures' and pioneered a new genre they call 'modern sculpture'.


Artistic Vision and Process

Gilbert & George view themselves as art, incorporating their presence and personalities into each work. They are almost always pictured in their craft, dressed in suits and ties. Their artistic process involves selecting newspaper headlines, images, and phrases that they find interesting or provocative, then arranging and presenting these found elements into large-scale mixed media pieces.

Gilbert & George gather material from the area they live and work in, the East End of London. They aim to reflect themes relating to human existence, like life, death, hope, fear, sex and religion. Their art incorporates photography, digital images, and graphic design. The final pieces are monumental in scale, with some up to 30 feet high.

Although their art is meant to provoke thought, Gilbert & George describe their works as 'joyous and life-enhancing.' They want to communicate positive ideas and 'throw open the doors of perception.'

Gilbert & George's instantly recognizable style and artistic partnership have established them as leading contemporary artists. They have created a body of work that provides social commentary on the human experience in modern times. Their memorable and thought-provoking art has enduring appeal and relevance.

Gilbert & George List of Work

Gilbert & George
Image Credit: Lehmann Maupin

Gilbert & George's early works were conceptual and avant-garde. 

1969

"Living sculptures"

They created their first sculpture, coating their bodies in metallic paint and singing and dancing in front of their audience. These bizarre and unsettling performances earned them recognition in art for their willingness to push creative boundaries.

 

Significant Exhibitions and Accomplishments of Gilbert & George

Gilbert & George have participated in numerous major exhibitions and received significant accolades over their 50-year career. Some of their most notable shows and accomplishments include:

2005

"The Singing Sculpture"

Gilbert & George represented Great Britain at the Venice Biennale, one of the most prestigious international art exhibitions. Their exhibition featured their signature large-scale pictures as well as a daily performance of their living sculpture. This prominent showing further cemented their status as leading contemporary artists.

 

Retrospectives

Major retrospectives of Gilbert & George's work have been held at renowned institutions worldwide, including:

2007

Tate Modern in London

2008

Brooklyn Museum

2016

Irish Museum of Modern Art

  

These comprehensive surveys spanned decades of provocative and poignant art, demonstrating their prolific and influential careers.


Honours and Commendations

Gilbert & George have received many honours recognizing their substantial contributions to art. 

1986

Turner Prize

2007

Knights Commander of the British Empire

2012

Royal Academicians

 

They also hold several honorary degrees from esteemed art schools. These accolades highlight their significant and lasting impact on conceptual art.


Permanent Collections

Artworks by Gilbert & George are held in the permanent collections of major museums internationally, including:

  • Museum of Modern Art 

  • Guggenheim Museum in New York

  • Tate Modern in London

  • Center Pompidou in Paris

Their inclusion in these world-class institutions confirms their status as pioneers in contemporary art who have shaped understandings of sculpture, photography, and more.

Gilbert & George's groundbreaking and thought-provoking art has been displayed, honoured, and acquired by leading organizations and collectors worldwide. They have become British national treasures and enduring artistic influences through their memorable and moving works.


What Medium do Gilbert and George Use?

Gilbert and George are known for using a variety of artistic mediums in their work. They are mainly known for using photography, sculpture, painting, and performance art. In their photographic works, they often use their images to explore themes of identity, religion, and sexuality. 

They have also created large-scale sculptural pieces using materials such as metal and glass. Gilbert and George have also incorporated painting into their work, using bold colours and graphic imagery. They have also been known to integrate performance art elements into their exhibitions, often presenting as living sculptures within the gallery space. 

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