Gilbert and George  

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Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel
Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel

Gilbert Prousch (or Proesch) (born in San Martin (San Martino), Italy, September 11, 1943) and George Passmore (born in Devon, England January 8, 1942), better known as Gilbert & George, are artists. They have worked almost exclusively as a pair and are known for works such as "Naked Shit Pictures" (1994).


Early life

Gilbert Proesch was born in San Martin de Tor in Italy, his mother tongue being Ladin rather than Italian. He studied art at the Wolkenstein School of Art 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 poor household. He studied art at the Dartington College of Arts and the Oxford School of Art, then part of the Oxford College of Technology, which eventually became Oxford Brookes University.

The two first met on 25 September 1967 while studying sculpture at St Martins School of Art, now Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design, one of six colleges in the University of the Arts, London. The two claim they came together because George was the only person who could understand Gilbert's rather poorly spoken English. In a 2002 interview with Daily Telegraph they said of their meeting: "it was love at first sight.".

For many years, Gilbert & George have been residents of Fournier Street, Spitalfields, East London. 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".

Singing and living sculptures

Whilst still students Gilbert & George made The Singing Sculpture, which was first performed at Nigel Greenwood Gallery in 1970. 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.

The Pictures

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. The artists themselves frequently feature in these works, along with flowers, youths, friends, and Christian symbolism.

In 1986 Gilbert and George were criticized for a series of pictures seemingly glamourizing '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 of their art, The Complete Pictures, 1971–2005, published in 2007 by Tate Modern, includes over a thousand examples of their art.

In May 2007, Gilbert and 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.

In 2000 they moved galleries to be represented by White Cube.

Jack Freak Pictures

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, Amsterdam; Centro de Arte Contemporaneo de Malaga, Spain; Arndt & Partner gallery, Berlin; the Baronian Francey Gallery, Brussels; and the Bozar Center for Fine Arts, Brussels.


In 1981 Gilbert & George won the Regione Lazio Award (Torino), in 1986 the Turner Prize, in 1989 the Special International Award (Los Angeles), in 2007 they won the South Bank Award, as well as the Lorenzo il Magnifico Award (Florence).

In 2005 they represented the UK at the Venice Biennale. Their 2007 retrospective at Tate Modern was the largest of any artist held at the gallery.

In December 2008 Gilbert & George were awarded an Honorary Doctorate by London Metropolitan University.Template:Citation needed

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

Political stances

Gilbert & George are 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." 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."


  • 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 and George.

Further reading

  • Wolf Jahn, The Art of Gilbert & George. New York: Thames & Hudson, 1989.
  • Robin Dutt, Gilbert & George: Obsessions & Compulsions. London: Philip Wilson Publishers, 2004. ISBN 0 85667 570 9
  • Gilbert & George: The Complete Pictures, Rudi Fuchs, Tate Publishing, 2007. ISBN 978-1-85437-681-7
  • Daniel Farson (2000). Gilbert and George: A Portrait. HarperCollins. London, 2000.
  • White Cube, London. "Sonofagod Pictures", 2006
  • "Intimate Conversation", Francois Jonquet, Phaidon, London, 2005
  • "Gilbert & George, E1", Isabelle Baudino, Marie Gautheron & others, ENS Editions, lyon, 2005
  • Robert Rosenblum, "Introducing Gilbert & George", Thames & Hudson, London, 2004
  • "Perversive Pictures 2004", Sonnabend Gallery/Lehmann Maupin, New York, 2004
  • "Thirteen Hooligan Pictures", Gallery Bernier/Eliades, Athens, 2004
  • "London E1 Pictures", Galerie Thaddaeus Ropac, Paris, 2004
  • "New Horny Pictures", White Cube, London, 2001
  • Daniel Farson, "Gilbert & George: A Portrait", Harper Colins, London, 1999
  • Daniel Farson, "With Gilbert & George in Moscow", Bloomsbury, London, 1991

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