Gilbert & George : a Portrait

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9780002558570: Gilbert & George : a Portrait

The candid, revealing inside story of one of the great and most original art acts of our time: the enigmatic ‘living sculptures’ based in Spitalfields in London’s East End, who are now widely recognised as perhaps the most important living artists on the international scene.

Written with the full cooperation of Gilbert and George, this will be a definitive biography (with illustration sections) rather than a pure art book: very much along the lines fo the author’s vivid, intimate, bestselling portrayal of THE GILDED GUTTER LIFE OF FRANCIS BACON.

Gilbert and George have marketed their work with extraordinary single-mindedness since they appeared together in the late 1960s. Their technique – taking thousands of photographs, assembling a theme in panels and dyeing them in vivid colours – is unequalled. Whether you love them or hate them, they are two of the most exciting artists alive. Their relationship appears odd to the outsider, but is undeniably a great love story. Their appearance (identical three-buttoned suits) has become their trademark.

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Review:

This affectionate, almost loving, portrait of two of Britain's most distinguished and most controversial artists is made all the more poignant by that fact that the biographer, art journalist and author Daniel Farson, died while writing it. Being Gilbert & George, the salacious material is fairly unorthodox--the most shocking revelation is that George married as a young man and has two children--and for the most part Farson is almost apologetic about any intrusion into Proesch and Passmore's (their surnames) private lives. The first half of the book takes us from childhoods in the Dolomites and Tiverton via their meeting at St Martin's School of Art in the late 1960s to their current status as art icons. The second half sees Dan following them around--Moscow, Shanghai, Barnstable--as they exhibit around the world. Farson wisely highlights his admiration for them at the outset and the reader is clear that this is no hatchet job. That said he covers both the art and the lives with a straightforward professionalism that is never less than absorbing. This book is a fine tribute to Gilbert & George. Equally their closing words are fine tribute to Farson. "On 27 November our dear Daniel died, not knowing how much we loved him (though we told him often enough)". -- Nick Wroe

From the Back Cover:

Gilbert and George are unquestionably among the most important and original artists of our time, and in Daniel Farson they found both a doughty (if critical) champion and a stimulating companion. The author of 'The Gilded Gutter Life of Francis Bacon' spent a lot of time in their company over several years – in Moscow, Beijing, Shanghai, New York, Stockholm, Paris, London and Devon – and his manuscript was on the desk of his house in Appledore when he died in November 1997.

In this delightful and engagingly informal portrait, Gilbert and George reminisce about their family upbringing in the country (George in Totnes, Gilbert in the Italian Dolomites), their immediate friendship at St Martin’s School of Art in the late 1960s, their life in Spitalfields ‘stripped to the best essentials’, and their relish of the mixed cultures of the East End. They proclaim certain areas to be no-go: their art is not autobiographical, and ‘we believe we deal with sex in the gentle way we want to in our pictures. If sexual confession was a way of changing society we’d do it, but we believe in doing it through our pictures.’

With their distinctive trademark single-breasted, three button suits and their famously studied but courteous composure, Gilbert and George set out as artists without a gallery, an almost blasphemous conception at the time. From living, and singing, sculptures, they developed a line in controversial subject-matter that extends from the Dirty Words pictures to The Naked Shit Pictures and The Fundamental Pictures. As exponents of photo-based art, they are, as writer David Sylvester has remarked, perhaps second only to Andy Warhol.

One of the pleasures of this book is seeing how so many critics (including Farson himself) have come to recognise the artists’ vision and to regard some of their work as among the major pictures of the century.

Robert Violette is an editor and publisher based in London. He has edited and produced many books by Gilbert and George over the last ten years, including 'The Words of Gilbert and George' and catalogues for their exhibitions in London, New York, Moscow, and China.

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