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Gilbert & George
Gilbert Proesch, b. 1943, Dolomites, Italy
George Passmore, b. 1942, Devon, England
Gilbert was born Gilbert Proesch in 1943 in the Italian Dolomites. He studied at the Wolkenstein School of Art, Italy; the Hallein School of Art, Austria; and the Akademie der Kunst, Munich. George was born George Passmore in 1942 in Devon, England. He was schooled at the Dartington Adult Education Centre, Devon, Dartington Hall College of Art, and the Oxford School of Art. Gilbert and George met while students at the Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design, London, in 1967 and have lived and worked together in London since 1968.
Moving to the working-class neighborhood of Spitalfields in London, Gilbert and George revolted against art’s elitism, naming their house “Art for All” and declaring themselves “living sculptures.” Although their early work centered around Performance, the artists soon turned to video, photography, and drawing. As early as 1969, the artists were given an exhibition at the Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam, and by 1972–73 were frequently showing with prestigious galleries such as the Anthony d’Offay Gallery, London; Sonnabend Gallery, New York; and Konrad Fischer Galerie, Düsseldorf. Their use of black-and-white photographic assemblages first surfaced in 1971 and by the late 1970s had developed into gridlike photo combinations. The duo was invited to participate in Documenta 5, 6, and 7 in Kassel in 1972, 1977, and 1982. In 1980, the Stedelijk Van Abbemuseum, Eindhoven, organized a mid-career retrospective of the artists’ work, which traveled to the Kunsthalle Düsseldorf; Kunsthalle Bern; Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris; and Whitechapel Art Gallery, London.
In the first years of the 1980s, Gilbert and George added a range of bright colors to their photographs, emphasizing their slick, stylized, and cartoonlike appearance. The content of the work of this period centered around urban life and the hope and fear associated with modern society. In 1986, Gilbert and George were awarded the Turner Prize, and in 1987 had a major exhibition at the Hayward Gallery, London. In 1989, Gilbert and George exhibited twenty-five large pieces dealing with illness and destruction at Anthony d’Offay Gallery for an AIDS charity organization. The following year, the artists created The Cosmological Pictures, which toured ten different European museums from 1991 to 1993. Gilbert and George also exhibited in Moscow in 1990. In 1992, their largest production ever, New Democratic Pictures, was exhibited at Aarhus Kunstmuseum, Aarhus, Denmark. This was followed by a solo exhibition at the National Art Gallery, Beijing, and the Art Museum, Shanghai, in 1993. In 1994, the artists were given an exhibition at the Museo d’Arte Moderna, Lugano, Switzerland. They have since been the subject of major traveling retrospectives organized by Galleria d’Arte Moderna in Bologna (1996), Kunstmuseum Bonn (1999), and Tate Modern in London (2007), which traveled to the Brooklyn Museum (2008). They also represented England in the 2005 Venice Biennale. Gilbert and George live in London.