Usually one is not too concerned with who an artist is, but rather more with what an artist does. With Gilbert & George it is different, since they themselves are part of their art.
Since 1967 Gilbert & George have been a couple in art and in life. After finishing their studies at the art academy they had the feeling of being empty-handed – without a gallery or studio, yet with a remarkable idea: They simply declared themselves to be an artwork and appeared as "Living Sculptures". After the first, the "Singing Sculpture", when they presented the song "Underneath the Arches" underneath a bridge at London’s Charing Cross, many other presentations in different cities around the world followed.
Their "Singing Sculpture" and systematic drinking binges in neatly tailored suits were somewhat irritating to the media and the establishment – the bourgeois disposition, which Gilbert & George cultivated in appearance, stood in contrast to the anti-bourgeois provocative content of their Living Sculptures. In everyday life one was able to experience Gilbert & George as walking, eating, drinking and philosophizing sculptures.
Gilbert & George have lived together in the same street in the same house in the East End of London since 1968. Incorporating their immediate surroundings into their art, their works include universal themes such as multi-culturalism, integration, sexuality, youth culture, urbanity and religion. The art of Gilbert & George is characterized by an existential examination of modern life; it investigates what it means to live in a large city: The tensions and desires that arise from the coexistence of disparate cultural traditions and values.
Gilbert & George's world is full of mirrorings and symbols, religious and sexual, and in this world the viewer is confronted with the entire cycle of life including birth, hope, faith, sperm, blossoms, autumn and death. Their later pictures include subjects such as the affliction of aging, relationships and insecurity, but also a political zeitgeist. Gilbert & George have never been afraid to address taboos; just recently they examined their bodily fluids with a microscope and posed completely naked, scoffing at the idealization of youth.
Their comprehension of one's own body and one's own ego is relentless, right up to personal exposure and vulnerability. The pictures reflect the wealth of human sentiments; it is therefore no coincidence that Gilbert & George have resorted to including the cross and crucifixion as an unusually powerful image of human suffering.
The "Major Exhibition" presents Gilbert & George's art of the last forty years – not only the pictures, but also all the mediums with which the artists have engaged, including documentations on their "Living Sculptures", books, large format charcoal-on-paper sculptures from the early 70s, postcard sculptures and films. This allows the artist duo's formal and conceptual development to be observed.
A free music guide with the soundtrack "Suite for Gilbert & George" by Carsten "Erobique" Meyer is available for every visitor to the exhibition.
The CD is available exclusively at the bookshop Walther König in the Haus der Kunst.
On the occasion of their exhibition at Haus der Kunst, Gilbert & George have created two special fine art prints, each comes in an edition of 100: "Hearts of Plane", 2007 and "Fingers of Fate", 2007; each signed and numbered; available at Walther König bookshop, Haus der Kunst.
A Tate Modern, London exhibition in association with Haus der Kunst