Gilbert was born Gilbert Proesch in 1943 in the Italian Dolomites. He studied at the Wolkenstein School of Art and Hallein School of Art, Austria and the Akademie der Kunst, Munich. George was born George Passmore in 1942 in Devon, England. He was schooled at the Dartington Adult Education Centre, Devon; Dartington Hall College of Art; and the Oxford School of Art. Gilbert and George met while students at the St. Martinâ€™s School of Art, London in 1967, and have lived and worked together in London since 1968.
Moving to the working-class neighborhood of Spitalfields in London, Gilbert and George revolted against art's elitism, naming their house "Art for All" and declaring themselves "living sculptures." Although their early work centered around Performance [more], the artists soon turned to video, photography, and drawing. As early as 1969, the artists were given an exhibition at the Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam, and by 1972-73 were frequently showing with prestigious galleries like Anthony d'Offay Gallery, London, Sonnabend Gallery, New York, and Galerie Konrad Fischer, Dusseldorf. Their use of black-and-white photographic assemblages first surfaced in 1971 and by the late 1970s had developed into gridlike photo combinations.
The duo was invited to participate in Documenta in Kassel in 1972, 1977, and 1982. In 1980, the Stedelijk Van Abbemuseum, Eindhoven, organized a mid-career retrospective of the artists' work, which traveled to the Kunsthalle Dusseldorf, Kunsthalle Bern, Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris, and Whitechapel Art Gallery, London.
In the first years of the 1980s, Gilbert and George added a range of bright colors to their photographs, emphasizing their slick, stylized, and cartoon-like appearance. The content of the work of this period centered around urban life and the hope and fear associated with modern society. In 1986, Gilbert and George were awarded the Turner Prize, and in 1987 had a major exhibition at the Hayward Gallery, London. In 1989, Gilbert and George exhibited 25 large pieces dealing with illness and destruction at Anthony d'Offay Gallery for an AIDS charity organization. The following year, the artists created The Cosmological Pictures, which toured ten different European museums from 1991 to 1993.
Gilbert and George also exhibited in Moscow in 1990. In 1992, their largest production ever, New Democratic Pictures, was exhibited at Aarhus Kunstmuseum, Aarhus, Denmark. This was followed by a solo exhibition at the National Art Gallery, Beijing, and the Art Museum, Shanghai, in 1993. In 1994, the artists were given an exhibition at the Museo d'Arte Moderna, Lugano, Switzerland. Gilbert and George live in London.