Famed artist duo Gilbert & George, who describe themselves as two men who are together one artist, have unveiled a new gallery in London dedicated to their work.
The pair — Gilbert Prousch and George Passmore — have been working together for six decades, creating absurdist performance art and image-based works centered on the idea that the artists are “living sculptures” — and that everything they do is art.
Opening to the public April 1, the Gilbert & George Centre’s first show, “The Paradisical Pictures,” displays a series of hallucinatory large-scale mixed media works that appear like stained-glass and feature religious and nature motifs and self-portraits.
Speaking to CNN’s Christiane Amanpour ahead of the launch, Prousch said, “New museums don’t have the space anymore, and it is limited what they can show.
“We started out with the idea that we wanted to be seen, and the only way to be seen is to build your own little museum… They are too full up with other artists.”
In 2021, the artists told the Financial Times in an interview that “all the museums are now woke,” with Prousch saying the Tate has 23 of their works that “they never show.” He added: “At the moment it’s all Black art, all women art, all this art and that art. Just go and have a look at Tate Modern, I’m sure they don’t have a (Francis) Bacon up.”
Their remarks resurfaced last year, with critics pointing out that their comments are at odds with their ethos of “art for all.”
Others didn’t mince words. The Nigerian artist and academic Chika Okeke-Agulu posted to Instagram in October 2022: “These two white British men are getting themselves their own museum because [B]lack folks and women have taken over the white man’s art institutions.”
The artists did not talk about race or gender during the recent conversation with Amanpour, and when CNN Style reached out to Gilbert & George after the interview regarding the artists’ earlier statements, a representative declined to comment.
A history of provocation
In the CNN interview, the artists expressed that they are political outliers for their conservative beliefs.
“In Britain, for many, many years it was a bad thing to say you’re conservative; it was as if you were weird or something,” Passmore told Amanpour. “We always vote Conservative because we like to vote for the winning party… We think Conservative is more normal; the other side is more foreign, more revolutionary, more communist or more atheist or something weird. Conservative means normal, average.”
But Prousch and Passmore have long been provocative in their works, creating photograms of urine streams, feces, and Catholic iconography, and displaying themselves suitless — a rarity — and bent over in the 1994 self-portrait “Bum Holes.” In an early diptych together, from 1969, the young artists wore cut-out letters on their suits that spelled out “George the C***” and “Gilbert the S***.”
When asked if they considered themselves “eccentric,” the Passmore replied “Certainly not. We’re normal — normal weird,” adding, “We don’t want to be weird because traditionally all the artists were weird, with sandals and tobacco pipes and things. And we don’t want to be normal, because who wants to be like everyone else? But to be weird and normal at the same time is a good balance, we think.”