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Gilbert & George Biography

Gilbert & George is an artist-duo consisting of Gilbert Proesch and George Passmore, known for their provocative and eccentric 'living sculptures', drawings, photographic montages, and prints. Often taking their personal lives and immediate surroundings as points of departure, the duo navigates themes such as sexuality, racial tension, violence, and religion.

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Gilbert & George have been working together since they met as students at Central Saint Martins in London in 1967. The duo are well-known for declaring their lives as art and staging performances in which they presented themselves as 'living sculptures'. For their iconic work The Singing Sculpture (1969–1991), the pair dressed in business suits, painted their faces in bronze powder, and sang and danced to the Depression-era song Underneath the Arches, with a choreography reminiscent of the movements of androids or puppets. In video works from this period, the duo—clad again in business suits—performs mundane activities such as drinking their favourite brand of gin (Gordon's Makes Us Drunk, 1972) in an attempt to confuse the hierarchy between art and the banal.

The suit would become a defining characteristic of Gilbert & George, not only in their artworks, where they almost always appear suited (if wearing clothes), but also in everyday life, dressing themselves in suits for interviews, exhibitions, and even for mundane activities such as taking a walk. In a 2017 interview with Ocula Magazine, the duo noted that coming from poor backgrounds—Proesch from a family of shoemakers in the Dolomites, Italy, and Passmore raised by a single mother in Devon, United Kingdom—they found suits to be a pragmatic tool with which to cultivate an air of propriety.

In the early 1970s Gilbert & George produced large charcoal drawings mounted on paper and erected to create immersive environments. One notable example is The Tuileries (1974), an installation that consists of large-scale, wall-mounted charcoal drawings depicting the suit-clad artist duo in the woods at the Tuileries in Paris, then widely known as a meeting place for gay men. Four simple pieces of furniture covered in the same imagery are presented with the drawings, simulating a living room setting. As a work that offers insight into the artists' life as a homosexual couple not long after the decriminalisation of homosexuality in the United Kingdom (1967), the drawings' overall melancholic tone hints at a sense of alienation. The furniture also summons the artists' personal lives into the work, having been modelled after their own chairs (which also appear in Gordon's Make Us Drunk), while simultaneously functioning as a device to transport the audience into the woods.

It was also in the 1970s that Gilbert & George began arranging black-and-white photographs into grid-like compositions. 'The Dirty Words Pictures' (1977), for example, consist of 26 such photographic assemblages; one artwork, titled Cunt Scum, contains 16 images in rows of four, black metal frames dividing each panel. The words 'cunt' and 'scum' are spelled in graffiti letters on top and bottom rows, between which are pictures of the artists, London policemen, vagrants, and vacant streets. Taken east of London in Spitalfields, where the artists have been living since the late 1960s, the images follow the changing faces of the duo's neighbourhood, which is an area historically known as a home to immigrants. 'The Dirty Words Pictures' were made at a time when Spitalfields' Bangladesh and Pakistani communities were targeted by white nationalists; by placing themselves on either side of 'scum' in Cunt Scum, the artists seem to be condemning the racial attacks while acknowledging their inseparable association with British whiteness.

Throughout the decades that followed, Gilbert & George have continued to engage with social issues while incorporating bright colours into their photographic assemblages. The 15 panels in Light Headed (1991), for example, depict the red and yellow heads of the artists raised on hands in red, orange, and pink against a horizontal seascape backdrop. Conceived in the time of the AIDS epidemic, works such as Light Headed expressed the artists' grief over losing their friends in part through the use of vivid red—reflective of the public's fear of blood in response to the epidemic—and frontal gaze.

Since the early 2000s Gilbert & George have been working digitally, but conceptually their personal lives remain at the core of their practice. In 2017, they presented a new body of mixed media prints in an exhibition titled The Beard Pictures at Lehmann Maupin in New York. Depicting themselves as bearded creatures with hair made from various and unlikely sources—wire mesh, flowers, tree leaves, and beer foam among others—the artists explored the beard as a symbol of a larger social structure.

In addition to their 2007 major survey exhibition at Tate Modern, London, titled Gilbert & George: Major Exhibition, the artistic duo has held exhibitions internationally, including Gilbert & George: THE MAJOR EXHIBITION, Helsinki Art Museum (HAM) (2018); The Beard Pictures and Their Fuckosophy, White Cube, London (2018); and The Early Years, The Museum of Modern Art, New York (2015). The artists were nominated twice for the prestigious Turner Prize (1984, 1986) winning the second time, and presented their works in the Venice Biennale three times (1978, 2003, and 2005).

Sherry Paik | Ocula | 2019

Exhibition view: Gilbert & George, THE PARADISICAL PICTURES, Sprüth Magers, Berlin (28 April–25 August 2021). © Gilbert & George. Courtesy Sprüth Magers. Photo: Ingo Kniest.

Gilbert & George Featured Artworks

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RED PLACE by Gilbert & George contemporary artwork
Gilbert & GeorgeRED PLACE, 2020Mixed media
127 x 151 cm
Lehmann Maupin Contact Gallery
DATE STONE HEADS by Gilbert & George contemporary artwork
Gilbert & GeorgeDATE STONE HEADS, 2019Mixed media
151 x 127 cm
Sprüth Magers Enquire
LICHEN DAYS by Gilbert & George contemporary artwork
Gilbert & GeorgeLICHEN DAYS, 2019Mixed media
301 x 568 cm
Sprüth Magers Enquire
TENDER by Gilbert & George contemporary artwork
Gilbert & GeorgeTENDER, 2019Mixed media
226 x 253 cm
Sprüth Magers Enquire
BAG WAY by Gilbert & George contemporary artwork
Gilbert & GeorgeBAG WAY, 2020Mixed media
227 x 380 cm
Lehmann Maupin Contact Gallery
FUCK OFF HIPSTERS by Gilbert & George contemporary artwork
Gilbert & GeorgeFUCK OFF HIPSTERS, 2016Mixed media
302 x 444 cm
Lehmann Maupin Contact Gallery
Beardmoor by Gilbert & George contemporary artwork
Gilbert & GeorgeBeardmoor, 2016Mixed media
74.8 x 88.98 inches
Lehmann Maupin Contact Gallery

Gilbert & George Current & Recent Exhibitions

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Contemporary art exhibition, Gilbert & George, THE PARADISICAL PICTURES at Sprüth Magers, Berlin
Open Now
28 April–25 August 2021 Gilbert & George THE PARADISICAL PICTURES Sprüth MagersBerlin
Contemporary art exhibition, Group Exhibition, (SELF) PORTRAITS at Parkett, Zurich Exhibition Space
Closed
22 February–30 September 2020 Group Exhibition (SELF) PORTRAITS ParkettZurich Exhibition Space
Contemporary art exhibition, Gilbert & George, THE PARADISICAL PICTURES at Sprüth Magers, Los Angeles
Closed
16 November 2019–25 January 2020 Gilbert & George THE PARADISICAL PICTURES Sprüth MagersLos Angeles

Gilbert & George Represented By

Lehmann Maupin contemporary art gallery in 536 West 22nd Street, New York, USA Lehmann Maupin New York, Hong Kong, London, Seoul

Gilbert & George In Ocula Magazine

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Thaddaeus Ropac Seoul Opening Fuels Frieze Rumours Ocula News Thaddaeus Ropac Seoul Opening Fuels Frieze Rumours Seoul, 14 May 2021

KÖNIG Galerie also opened in the city recently, while Pace Gallery expanded, boosting speculation Frieze will launch a Seoul fair next year.

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Gilbert & George Ocula Conversation Gilbert & George By David Birkin, New York

We’re looking for the moral dimension. We don’t want an image just because it’s nice or interesting or strange or mysterious. It has to have some actual human significance. It has to ask questions: that’s very important, and it has to disturb in some way as well.

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Nicole Durling Ocula Conversation Nicole Durling By Anna Dickie, Hobart

We want to allow artists the space to take risks and explore. That's my job as a curator: to be mindful of that, to remove the anxieties around exploring something new, and to create a supportive environment around an artist that allows them to take those leaps.

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Gilbert & George In Related Press

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An outsize dose of Gilbert & George Related Press An outsize dose of Gilbert & George 14 August 2018, The Art Newspaper

After a summer in the ancient Roman town of Arles, I can say that the French are very clear about their boundaries. When it's time for lunch, for example, those two and a half hours are sacred, and commerce be damned.

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'We say what we want' … Gilbert and George look back on 50 years of filth, fury and in-your-face art Related Press 'We say what we want' … Gilbert and George look back on 50 years of filth, fury and in-your-face art 15 November 2017, The Guardian

Half an hour into my interview with Gilbert and George, something unexpected happens: they disagree. Gilbert Prousch is talking about their urge to provoke and outrage. 'We see all the other artists as somehow meaningless,' says the 74-year-old, his Italian accent still strong. Gilbert grew up in a tiny village in the Dolomites and attended art...

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Gilbert & George bring battle of cultures to Berlin church Related Press Gilbert & George bring battle of cultures to Berlin church 22 May 2017, The Art Newspaper

The British art duo Gilbert & George were not initially convinced it was a good idea to show their work in a church. They are generally anti-religion. But, as George points out, 'faith in the church is out there' and to deny its existence would be futile.

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MoMA/MoMA PS1 Records releases 'The Thoughts of Gilbert & George' on vinyl Related Press MoMA/MoMA PS1 Records releases 'The Thoughts of Gilbert & George' on vinyl 8 August 2016, ARTNews

MoMA/MoMA PS1 Records—yes, the institutions have a record label—has released a special vinyl edition of The Thoughts of Gilbert & George, a recording that revisits their landmark work The Singing Sculpture, discussing the process of its creation as they sit in the studio. 

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Gilbert & George In Video & Audio

Art Stage Singapore 2015 Related Video & Audio Art Stage Singapore 2015 22 January 2015, Vernissage TV / 21 January 2015

For the 5 th time, Art Stage Singapore takes place at the Marina Bay Sands Expo and Convention Centre in Singapore. The fair is known for its special focus on Southeast Asian art scenes (Indonesia, the Philippines, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos and Myanmar). This year, more than 170 galleries from Asian and Western...

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