Ever since they first met at the Saint Martin’s School of Art, Gilbert & George have been inseparable, both professionally and privately. This was in 1967 and while London was swinging, Gilbert & George were unmoved by current trends. Instead, they donned immaculate attire – their “responsibility suits” – and embarked on a voyage to challenge the conventions of art and society.
Fearless and straight to the point, their art has the power to unsettle the viewer. THE GREAT EXHIBITIONcomprises works from the period 1971 to 2016. The exhibition is packed from floor to ceiling with pictures that are grotesque and terse, surrealistic and symbolic, but consistently within the strict grid that is emblematic of the duo.
Gilbert, born in 1943 in the Italian Dolomites, and George, born in 1942 in Plymouth, UK, have an express purpose with their provocative art: “to reveal the inner-bigotry in the libertarian, and conversely to reveal the inner-libertarianism in the bigot”. Gilbert & George have lived and worked in the same London neighbourhood for more than five decades, noting how it has changed over time. Dressed in almost matching, immaculate suits, the two are in equal parts subject and object – an indivisible unit, unconditionally devoting themselves and their life together to art. The every day life of Gilbert & George is as creative as it is rigorously ordered. By committing themselves to a discipline as rigorous as it is creative, keeping their life at their home and studio to simple classless routines, they have made room for total creative madness. Punk rockers and nationalists, folk dance and bombs, autumn leaves and personal ads – with their fearless and singular common gaze, the most iconic duo of the art world probes the world that surrounds us all.
Gilbert & George (Photo: Tom Oldham)
“For over half a century, they have been among the most visible artists on the planet. This is not surprising, since the recurring themes in their art could not be more fundamental to us humans: politics, religion, sexuality and beauty. Ultimately, what their art is about is human life itself”.
– Daniel Birnbaum and Hans Ulrich Obrist.
Watch Moderna Museet’s Introduction: