Gilbert Proesch (b Dolomites, Italy, 17 September 1943) and George Passmore (b Plymouth, Devon, 8 January 1942) met in 1967 as students at St Martin's School of Art in London. By 1969 they were reacting against approaches to sculpture then dominant at St Martin's, which they regarded as elitist and poor at communicating outside an art context. Their strategy was to make themselves into sculpture, so sacrificing their separate identities to art and turning the notion of creativity on its head.
Although working in a variety of media, Gilbert and George referred to all their work as sculpture. Between 1970 and 1974 they also made drawings (referred to as ‘charcoal on paper sculptures’) and paintings to give a more tangible form to their identity as ‘living sculptures'.
In 1971 Gilbert and George made their first ‘photo-pieces', which remained their dominant form of expression. They gradually shifted the emphasis of their subject matter away from their own experiences of life. Instead they concentrated on the inner-city reality that confronted them on the street, and on the structures and feelings that inform life such as religion, class, royalty, sex, hope, nationality, death, identity, politics and fear.
Gilbert and George won the Turner Prize in 1986 and in 2005 represented the UK at the Venice Biennale. The Tate Modern held a large retrospective of their work in 2007.