Gilbert & George, British collaborative team made up of Gilbert Proesch (b. Sept. 17, 1943, Dolomites, Italy) and George Passmore (b. Jan. 8, 1942, Plymouth, Devon, Eng.), whose dynamic and often humorous insertion of themselves into their art proved an important chapter in postwar British conceptual art.
After some earlier training (Gilbert at the Munich Academy, George at the Art School in Oxford), the two artists met in 1967 as students at St. Martin’s School of Art in London. In a challenge to the methods taught at St. Martin’s, they began to blur the distinction between their “real” life and their artistic life. By 1969 they were presenting themselves as living sculptures. In a series of live performances, such as The Singing Sculpture (1969), Gilbert & George appeared dressed in business suits with their faces covered in bronze powder, and, using staccato and puppetlike gestures, they sang and moved to the accompaniment of a recording of the Depression-era song “Underneath the Arches.” They also began producing a number of videos, such as A Portrait of the Artists as Young Men (1970) and Gordon’s Makes Us Drunk (1972), in which they drank gin, smoked cigarettes, repeated particular phrases, moved about slowly, and so on. With these irreverent and insouciant activities as well as their later artistic endeavours, Gilbert & George sought to question—among other things—the fetishization of the art object. They claimed their entire lives as art.