Gilbert and George: Artist Portrait

Gilbert & George

Born 1967, United Kingdom.
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Gilbert & George Biography

Over the course of more than 50 years of artistic and romantic partnership, Gilbert Proesch and George Passmore, known as Gilbert & George, have tackled the taboo in characteristically brash and confrontational style. Most famous for their garishly colored, grid-like photo collages, the duo grapple with controversial subject matter, from queer culture and sexuality to addiction and violence, religion and patriotism to terrorism and racial tension, with provocation and humor. Inspired by Pop Art, Conceptualism, and performance art, Gilbert & George maintain a carefully cultivated public persona, habitually attired in formal tweed suits, and consider all facets of everyday life as ripe for artistic expression. Their iconoclastic public presentation and use of shock tactics has been cited as an influence for the Young British Artists (YBAs), including Damien Hirst and Tracy Emin.

Proesch was born in 1943 in San Martin de Tor, Italy. He studied at Wolkenstein Art School in Switzerland, and then at the Munich Academy of Art. Passmore was born in 1942 in Plymouth, England, and studied at the Oxford School of Art. The two met in 1967 while students at Central Saint Martin’s College of Art and Design in London, where they fell in love and embarked on their longstanding artistic collaboration.

Gilbert & George swiftly established their opposition to the elitism of the art world; one of their earliest works, The Singing Sculpture (1969) – in which the duo, dressed in business suits and covered in bronze makeup, sang and danced to a 1930’s vaudeville tune – exemplified their concept of “living sculpture,” garnering wide attention and, ironically, prestige. In 1975, Proesch and Passmore purchased a home together in the East End of London, where they live and work to this day. In the early ’80s, Gilbert & George shifted their focus entirely toward photography and introduced startlingly bright color to their work. Since the turn of the milleium, they have ebraced technology and all of their output has been digital.

Gilbert & George are the recipients of numerous honors and awards, including the prestigious Turner Prize (1986). They represented the UK at the 2005 Venice Biennale and in 2007 had a major retrospective at the Tate Modern in London. Their works are held in public collections around the world, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum and Metropolitan Museum of Art, all in New York, the Art Institute of Chicago, the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, and the Tate Gallery, London.

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Artist Image: 1981 David Corio