Gilbert & George to open London art centre with after-life exhibition

By Hannah Ellison

LONDON (Reuters) – Artist duo Gilbert & George are bringing their vision of the world to a dedicated new exhibition venue in east London, with much of the programme shown for free in line with their “art for all” ethos.

The Gilbert & George Centre, in the city’s Spitalfields area, is less than 5 minutes from the life and work partners’ home and studio.

“We have a following and so they are able to see our work for the first time in a better way, a bigger way. Normally it’s limited what you can see in cities, here they can see an intense Gilbert & George feeling,” Italian-born Gilbert, whose full name is Gilbert Prousch, told Reuters on Friday.

“They’re experiencing Gilbert & George art, that’s what it is, our vision of the world, our morality, our behaviour and everything.”

British-born George, whose full name is George Passmore, added: “The Gilbert & George centre is going to be a cultural force.”

The duo, usually pictured suited and impassive, met in 1967 while studying in London. They have been together since, producing imposing pictures that have tackled identity, race, poverty and death among others. They married in 2008.

The new centre, converted from a former brewery building and featuring three levels of gallery space run as a registered charity, will open to the public on April 1, with the inaugural free exhibition “The Paradisical Pictures”.

The works show the pair, sometimes disembodied, amid colourful psychedelic depictions of fruits, flowers and leaves.

“Most people think of paradise as the after-party,” George, 81, said. “The pictures address the people who believe in the after-life with equal courtesy to the people who don’t believe in the after-life.”

Asked how their work has evolved over the decades, Gilbert, 79, said: “What we see today is different to what we used to see 30, 40 years ago, it’s drawing our vision of today as human beings.”

George added on their success: “We’ve been very, very lucky in that way. We say we’ve walked the streets of London and now we’ve walked the streets of the world.”

(This story has been refiled to use an alternative spelling of Gilbert’s family name, Prousch not Proesch, in paragraph 3, to match TV package)

(Reporting by Hannah Ellison; Writing by Marie-Louise Gumuchian; Editing by Alison Williams)