top of page

Gilbert & George

Artists 108 Gilbert & George Queer Identity Anti-Establishment

Gilbert Prousch an Italian artist (born 1943) and George Passmore a British artist (born 1942), are two artists who work together as the collaborative art duo Gilbert & George.

Their works mostly comprises of large-scale photographs, their oeuvre spans the subjects of traditional black-and-white photography, queer culture, and ultra-violence.

Indebted to Pop Art, Conceptualism, and performance art, their work went on to influence the art of the Young British Artists.

They met and fell in love in 1967 while studying at Saint Martin's School of Art in London. The artists have enjoyed decades of critical and popular acclaim, including a retrospective at the Tate Modern in London and representing the United Kingdom at the 2005 Venice Biennale.

They are known for their distinctive and highly formal appearance and manner in performance art, and also for their brightly coloured graphic-style photo-based artworks.

Gilbert and George had, from the beginning, felt different and apart – outsiders who drew their strength from being together, who were not so alone because they were a couple.

They therefore based their practice on establishing an identity which challenged taboos but at the same time claimed a kind of brotherhood with everyman.

In the Magazine Sculpture, The Shit and The Cunt, published in 1970, Gilbert and George overtly identified themselves with abjection.

They afterwards described this as an attempt to pre-empt criticism of themselves and their art. Their photo series include where they are pictured alongside giant faeces and microscope enlargements of traditionally abject bodily fluids – urine, semen, tears and blood.

The New Horny Pictures continue this theme, tying it up with works of the 1980s which featured young men alongside the artists. Gilbert and George have explained:

“We are always trying to sort out the elements which are most important: Sex, Money, Race and Religion. And we realize there is nothing apart from that ... Sex as subject in art is in some ways forbidden. The corner porn shop has in some ways more freedom because the artist has to justify it morally. We believe that the power of living is sex. There is nothing else.”

Gilbert and George's approach to art has always been anti-elitist. Adopting the slogan ‘Art for All’, they aimed to be relevant beyond the narrow confines of the art world.

Although they work in a variety of media, they have always referred to all of their works as "sculpture". Between 1970 and 1974 they made drawings (referred to as 'Charcoal on Paper Sculptures') and paintings to give a more tangible form to their identity as ‘living sculptures'.

Some of their work has attracted media attention because of the inclusion of (potentially) shocking imagery, such as nudity, depictions of sexual acts, and bodily fluids.

Their art is deliberately controversial and designed to offend as they believe that good taste is the scourge of modern life. While they are unafraid to tackle difficult subjects head on, they are sometimes reluctant to be pinned down about their own opinions and have made some conflicting statements about their views over the years.

One consistent idea running through their work is the need to strive towards a world that is free from dogmatic religion and political correctness.

They employ shock tactics in order to get their message across.

These artists worked on Abjection during the 1960s onwards. In this time frame their relationship would fall into the ‘Other’ with their experience of queer culture and being rejected for their sexual orientation. They purposefully work with ultra-violence and thematic works that make people uncomfortable challenging the heteronormative structures of their society.

Considering what a short time ago this was and how even with progress made there is still a constant struggle against queer identity it shows how power Abject can be as a tool. If their work offends you it draws to question why the way society mistreats Queer individuals doesn’t offend in the same vein.


bottom of page