(Gilbert Proesch, b San Martino, Dolomites, 17 Sept. 1943; and George Passmore, b Plymouth, 8 Jan. 1942).
British artists who met while studying at St Martin's School of Art in London in 1967 and since 1968 have lived and worked together as self-styled ‘living sculptures’: ‘Being living sculptures is our life blood, our destiny, our romance, our disaster, our light and life.’ They initially attracted attention as Performance artists, their most famous work in this vein being Underneath the Arches (1969), in which—dressed in their characteristic neat suits and with their hands and faces painted gold—they mimed mechanically to the 1930s music-hall song of the title. Although they gave up such ‘living sculpture performances’ in 1977, they still see themselves as living sculptures, considering their whole lifestyle a work of art. Since the early 1970s their work has consisted mainly of photo-pieces—large and garish arrangements of photographs, usually in black and white and fiery red, and often violent or homoerotic in content, with scatological titles. The images are often drawn from the street life of the East End of London in which they live. Gilbert & George have become the most famous British avant-garde artists of their generation. Their work has been shown worldwide and has attracted an enormous amount of commentary. In 1986 they won the Turner Prize. Critical opinion on them is sharply divided, however: to some they are geniuses, to others tedious poseurs.