Gilbert & George, Gilbert Proesch, George Passmore

Cri_118511 Zoom


Gilbert & George, Gilbert Proesch, George Passmore. Live's. 1984. Black and white photographs, hand-colored with ink and dyes, and aluminum foil, mounted and framed, Overall 7' 11 1/2" x 11' 7" (242.7 x 353 cm), each panel frame 23 7/8 x 19 7/8" (60.5 x 50.5 cm). Given anonymously. © 2014 Gilbert & George

The Museum of Modern Art, MoMA Highlights since 1980, New York: The Museum of Modern Art, p. 53

In tailored suits and polished brogues, the artist duo Gilbert & George stare out of this artwork like mannequins from a shop window. They have placed themselves as saints or sinners in the center of their own universe; a chorus of casually dressed young men sporting red shirts, blue jeans, and yellow shoes are arrayed behind them like modern-day apostles. Incorporating bold black outlines that frame each figure and wide panes of primary colors reminiscent of stained glass windows, Live's functions in the straightforward graphic language of advertising. The work is constructed from twenty-eight separate photographs hand-colored with inks and dyes and embellished with aluminum foil.

Gilbert and George came into prominence in 1969 while Proesch and Passmore were students at London’s St. Martin’s School of Art. In an attempt to create art that was accessible to a general audience, they developed a simple, robotic song–and–dance routine to the music-hall tune "Underneath the Arches," which they went on to perform as "living sculptures" to mesmerized audiences throughout Europe and the United States. From that point on, the two artists — dressed in their signature style — have appeared together in all their artistic productions (including drawings, photographs, installations, videos, and performances), dissolving the traditional boundaries between artist and artwork. Their identities are inseparable from their work: "To be with art is all we ask," they have proclaimed.

Audio Program excerpt


Director, Glenn Lowry: In 1967, Gilbert & George met while studying sculpture at St. Martins School of Art, and they have lived and worked together ever since. In 2007 at the Tate Modern, they discussed their philosophy and process of making art.

Gilbert & George: I think it really was in 1967 when we decided that we were going to become the artwork. Everything that a human person has inside of it became our art.

We wanted an art that spoke as directly as possible to people. And that meant having meaning and content. We don't want to be confrontational; we prefer to be subversive.

Glenn Lowry: This work is constructed from twenty-eight separate photographs. At the center of an array of young men all dressed in red and blue with yellow shoes, Gilbert & George appear in their trademark tailored suits.

Gilbert & George: We didnt want just one image on the wall. We wanted to make a composition like artists always did. Trying to compose, create intense artificial feelings. So we used enlargers. From the beginning to the end it was all done by us.

We trained ourselveswe wanted to make big pictures with negatives; and we were some of the first artists to do that. It was an extraordinary battle at the beginning because it was not accepted in museums and in galleries.

Glenn Lowry: The colorful composition is evocative of stained glass windows.

Gilbert & George: We like size, big size, because we feel you can actually look at it instead of looking into it. It becomes like a landscape. Like the Renaissance.