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Gilbert & George

Working as a duo since 1967, Gilbert & George are best known for avant-garde working methods and conceptual artwork including photo montages—black grids with back lit stained-glass windows that often have religious symbolism.

Their full names are Gilbert Prousch (Proesch), who was born in San Martino, Italy in 1943, and George Passmore, born in Devon England in 1942. They met in London in 1967, and working together ever since then, present themselves as vulnerable folk trying to go about their business in a mixed up world that is strange, vulger, abusive and disturbed.

Gilbert Prousch, from Italy, studied art in Austria at the Wolkenstein School of Art and the Hallein School of Art and in Munich. Then he moved to England. George Passmore, from Plymouth, England, studied at Dartington Hall College of Art and the Oxford School of Art, which was at Oxford College as a part of the College of Technology that became Oxford Brookes University.

Prousch and Passmore met in 1967 at St. Martins School of Art, which was part of the University of the Arts in London. “The two claim they came together because George was the only person who could understand Gilbert’s rather poorly spoken English.”

At first they did performance art, wit one of their early works being The Singing Sculpture (1970) with which they used gold metallic paint to cover themselves and then, standing on a table, mimed to the recorded music of Underneath the Arches by Flanagan and Allen. In some of the early ’70s performance art, they got drunk on gin, documenting the ensuing activity. They wore matching business suits, which has become signature dress for them, and it is very unusual for one of them to be seen in public without the other. They consider themselves ‘living sculpture’ and regard everything they do as ‘art’. Gilbert & George live together in East London on Fournier Street, and have been in the habit of eating each night at the same Kurdish restaurant, with George usually walking there and Gilbert often taking a cab. In the 1990s, they owned a working men’s cafe near their home in Spitalfields, and sometimes worked the counter. As artists they are very prolific, creating to date “one work every 12 days for nearly 35 years.”

Exhibition venues they have shared include the Venice Biennale, Carnegie International, Stedelijk Museum of Amsterdam and the National Gallery of Beijing. In 1986, they won the Turner Prize, the annual prize of the Tate Museum, and also represented England at the Venice Bienale.

Sources include:
“Gilbert & George”, Wikipedia
Gilbert & George Are Workaholics, ARTINFO, Robert Ayers, 8/14/2007
White Cube Gallery website

Compiled and written by Lonnie Dunbier.

Biography from the Archives of AskART.