Gilbert & George: THE GREAT EXHIBITION
The British artist duo Gilbert & George is made up of two men who together form a creative force. For over five decades, they have created unique works where daily life and art merge. These world-renowned artists have shaped contemporary art, and they are known for paving the way for performance art and approaching their private life like an artwork. They have challenged prevailing, bourgeois ideas of taste and decorum, and also advanced the changing of attitude towards gays and other minority groups.
In THE GREAT EXHIBITION, the artists haves selected pictures mirroring their art, just as captivating as it is prolific. This exhibition provides an extensive overview of the career of Gilbert and George. The exhibition is specially made for Reykjavík Art Museum in good collaboration with Luma Arles in France, Luma Westbau and Künsthalle Zürich in Switzerland and Moderna Museet in Stocholm Sweden. The exhibition is a part of Reykjavík Arts Festival and is curated by world known curators, Daniel Birnbaum, ex-director of Moderna Museet and Hans Ulrich Obrist, Artistic Director of Serpentine Galleries in London.
Ever since they first met at the Saint Martin’s School of Art, Gilbert & George have been inseparable, both professionally and privately. This was in 1967 and while London was swinging, Gilbert & George were unmoved by current trends. Instead, they donned immaculate attire – their “responsibility suits” – and embarked on a voyage to challenge the conventions of art and society with a blatant disregard for any notions of “„good taste”“.
Fearless and straight to the point, their art has the power to unsettle the viewer. THE GREAT EXHIBITION comprises works from the period 1971 to 2016. The exhibition is packed from floor to ceiling with pictures that are grotesque and terse, surrealistic and symbolic, but consistently within the strict grid that is emblematic of the duo. Sex, money, race, and religion are among the subjects of their art, which succeeds in combining happiness and sadness, beauty and meaning.
Gilbert, born in 1943 in the Italian Dolomites, and George, born in 1942 in Plymouth, UK, have an express purpose with their provocative art: “to reveal the inner-bigotry in the libertarian, and conversely to reveal the inner-libertarianism in the bigot”. Gilbert & George have lived and worked in the same London neighbourhood for more than five decades, noting how it has changed over time. Dressed in almost matching, immaculate suits, the two are in equal parts subject and object – an indivisible unit, unconditionally devoting themselves and their life together to art. The every day life of Gilbert & George is as creative as it is rigorously ordered. By committing themselves to a discipline as rigorous as it is creative, keeping their life at their home and studio to simple classless routines, they have made room for total creative madness. Punk rockers and nationalists, folk dance and bombs, autumn leaves and personal ads – with their fearless and singular common gaze, the most iconic duo of the art world probes the world that surrounds us all.
“For over half a century, they have been among the most visible artists on the planet. This is not surprising, since the recurring themes in their art could not be more fundamental to us humans: politics, religion, sexuality and beauty. Ultimately, what their art is about is human life itself”.
- Daniel Birnbaum and Hans Ulrich Obrist.