February 12–May 16, 2021
For more than half a century, Gilbert & George have been creating art together. The topicality and significance of their outstanding oeuvre remains undiminished to this day. To honor the visually striking and at times rather provocative universe of these celebrated artists the Schirn Kunsthalle Frankfurt is dedicating the comprehensive retrospective GILBERT & GEORGE: THE GREAT EXHIBITION to which the artists have selected around 45 of their large-format pictures created between 1972 and 2019. Two people, one artist: since their first encounter in 1967 as fellow students at London’s Saint Martin’s School of Art, Gilbert & George have relentlessly challenged the artistic canon and conventions. Simultaneously subject and object of their art, they form a perfect artistic entity with no distinction between art and life. As Living Sculpture, they embody their art and are both subject and object of their large-format pictorial worlds.
Philipp Demandt, Director of the Schirn Kunsthalle Frankfurt, says: “Gilbert & George are totally committed to art and are forever questioning and expanding it with rigorous discipline and boundless imagination. They create art that observes, visualizes, and challenges—which, over the course of five decades, has produced a panorama of thousands of images that is impressive in every respect. I am very pleased that we can now provide an overview of Gilbert & George’s vast and visually powerful—and at times provocative—oeuvre at the Schirn Kunsthalle Frankfurt.”
Gilbert & George's art does not adhere to any aesthetic, formalistic, or conceptual intention—what counts is the content. They focus on the big existential questions. Their art revolves around death, hope, life, fear, sex, money, race, and religion. They also present social themes in their contrariness: at once joyful and tragic, grotesque and serious, surreal and symbolic. Gilbert & George engage with what is unsettling, and yet their aim is not to shock, but rather to make visible what is going on in the world, in keeping with their motto “Art for All.” Punks and hipsters, authorities and outsiders, headlines and advertising—Gilbert & George tend to interfere everywhere. Their art challenges our view of the world, and in doing so, consistently proves to be groundbreaking.
The exhibition’s curators, Hans Ulrich Obrist and Daniel Birnbaum, further elaborate: “Early on, Gilbert and George became Living Sculpture in both their art and their daily lives, becoming not only creators, but also the art itself. They are now among the most visible artists on the planet. This is not surprising, since the recurring themes in their art could not be more fundamental to us humans: politics, religion, sexuality and beauty. Ultimately, what their art is about is human life itself.”
An exhibition produced and organized by the Luma Foundation and Moderna Museet, Stockholm in collaboration with Schirn Kunsthalle Frankfurt.
The exhibition GILBERT & GEORGE: THE GREAT EXHIBITION is supported by the Kulturfonds Frankfurt RheinMain.
Director: Philipp Demandt
Curators: Hans Ulrich Obrist and Daniel Birnbaum
Schirn Kunsthalle Frankfurt
60311 Frankfurt am Main