Gilbert & George exhibition opens in Brighton

A new exhibition showcasing the work of a Turner Prize-winning artist partnership has opened today at the Brighton Museum and Art Gallery.

‘ARTIST ROOMS Gilbert & George’ features a number of works by the two artists, who have worked collectively for 50 years, sharing their lives and creating art.

Detail of Existers, 1984

Detail of Existers, 1984

After meeting as students at Saint Martin’s School of Art in 1967, the artists began creating work which centred on their own bodies. As ‘living sculptures’ as well as creators, Gilbert & George determined to create work which challenged views of what can constitute art.

Moving to an 18th century house in Spitalfields in 1968, at which they still live today, the artists continue to be inspired by their socially and economically diverse East London neighbourhood.

The themes in Gilbert & George’s work, such as faith, identity, and sexuality, are intended to provoke, as is their use of controversial images and subject matter. The explicit nature of their work, which includes nudity and bodily functions, may be challenging for some viewers.

The two artists work mostly in the mediums of photography and video, which they refer to as ‘sculptures’ in order to emphasise the works’ physical presence as art.

Detail of Balls: The Evening Before the Morning After - Drinking Sculpture, 1972

Detail of Balls: The Evening Before the Morning After - Drinking Sculpture, 1972

ARTIST ROOMS Gilbert & George divides the exhibition space into three galleries. As visitors enter, they find ‘All the world an art gallery’, which presents the artists’ early works from 1969 to 1981 as they react against modernist ideas of the art object being independent of time and place. Gallery two, ‘the head, the soul, the sex’, follows the pair as they begin to create larger work and align themselves with homeless people, disenfranchised young men and the graffiti artist, whose statuses as ‘outsiders’ resonates with the artists’ experiences as gay men. The third gallery features works from the New Democratic Pictures and the Fundamental Pictures series that Gilbert & George created in response to the AIDS crisis, positioning their own bodies centre stage again to emphasize freedom of creation.

Featured artworks at the Brighton Museum and Art Gallery include Balls: The Evening Before the Morning After - Drinking Sculpture (1972), The Ten Commandments for Gilbert & George (1995), Existers (1984), and Light Headed (1991).

The Gilbert & George exhibition draws from ARTIST ROOMS’ touring collection of modern and contemporary art, jointly owned by the National Galleries of Scotland and Tate.

ARTIST ROOMS is enabling ART FOR ALL, a project led by Brighton’s the Museum Collective. This collective, comprised of a group of people aged from 14 to 24, are working alongside artists, curators and industry specialists to create events for the exhibition.

Detail of Light Headed, 1991

Detail of Light Headed, 1991

“One of the missions of this exhibition is to reach out to young people,” said Jenny Lund, the curator of fine arts at Brighton Museum and Art Gallery. In addition to engaging with a social media audience, the exhibition is also free for young people aged under 26, as well as members. During the Brighton Museum Free Days (May 5, June 24, July 7, and August 18), admission will also be free for all visitors.

“We’re really excited to have Gilbert & George here,” Jenny continued. “It’s a great follow up to Jeff Koons. The transgressiveness, queerness, and eccentricity capture the Brighton spirit.”

ARTIST ROOMS Gilbert & George will be open until September 2. For more information, visit brightonmuseums.org.uk.