Artists Gilbert and George are opening their own gallery, saying museums ‘are too full’

Written by Jacqui Palumbo, CNN
Interview by Christiane Amanpour, CNN

Alex Hardie, CNN

Famous artist duo Gilbert & George, who describe themselves as two men who together are one artist, have unveiled a new gallery in London dedicated to their work.

The duo – Gilbert Prousch and George Passmore – have worked together for six decades, creating absurd performance and image-based works centered on the idea that artists are “living sculptures” – and that everything they do is art.

Open to the public on April 1, the Gilbert & George Centre’s first exhibition, ‘The Paradisical Pictures’, features a series of mind-blowing large-scale mixed-media works that resemble stained glass and feature religious and natural motifs and self-portraits .

Speaking to CNN’s Christiane Amanpour ahead of the launch, Prousch said: “New museums have run out of space, and what they can show is limited.

“We started off with the idea that we wanted to be seen, and the only way to be seen is to build your own little museum… They’re too full of other artists.”

Christiane Amanpour meets Gilbert & George

In 2021, the artists told the Financial Times in an interview that “all the museums are now awake”, Prousch claiming that the Tate has 23 of their works that “they never show”. He added: “At the moment it’s all black art, all women’s art, all that art and art. Just go and have a look at the Tate Modern, I’m sure they don’t have any ( Francis) Bacon.”

Their remarks resurfaced last year, with critics pointing out that their comments are at odds with their “art for all” philosophy.

Others didn’t mince words. Nigerian artist and scholar Chika Okeke-Agulu posted on Instagram in October 2022: “These two white British men are getting their own museum because [B]people are missing and women have taken over the white man’s art institutions.”

The artists did not discuss race or gender in the recent chat with Amanpour, and when CNN Style reached out to Gilbert & George after the interview regarding the artists’ previous statements, a rep declined to comment.

A story of provocation

“The Paradisical Pictures,” a series of mixed-media works resembling stained glass, is free to enter, like all gallery exhibits. Credit: Joe Maher/Getty Images

In the CNN interview, the artists said they were political outliers for their conservative beliefs.

“In Britain for many years it was a bad thing to say you were conservative; it was like you were weird or something,” Passmore told Amanpour. “We always vote Conservative because we like to vote for the winning party…We think Conservative is more normal; the other side is more foreign, more revolutionary, more communist or more atheist or something weird. Conservative means normal , AVERAGE.”

But Prousch and Passmore have long been provocative in their work, creating photograms of the flow of urine, excrement and Catholic iconography, and showing themselves costumeless – a rarity – and bent over in the 1994 self-portrait “Bum Holes “. In an early diptych together, from 1969, the young performers wore cut-out letters on their suits that spelled “George the C***” and “Gilbert the S***”.

When asked if they considered themselves “eccentric”, the Passmores replied “Definitely not. We’re normal – normal weird”, adding: “We don’t want to be weird because traditionally all artists were weird, with sandals and tobacco pipes and things. And we don’t want to be normal, because who wants to be like everyone else? But being weird and normal at the same time is a good balance, we think.


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