For the past forty years, Italian Gilbert Prousch and British George Passmore, have worked together to produce some of the art world’s most talked about, provocative images. Though many assume they’re lovers – they have, after all, lived together for over thirty years – the boys refuse to discuss their sex lives, insisting they’re simply artistic collaborators.
Whether they merge personally, they’ve certainly coalesced creatively, each forming one half of the nominal duo, Gilbert and George: a moniker recognized in nearly all corners of the art world, not least of all at England’s Tate Modern, which will unveil a retrospective of their work next month. Looking forward to the event, The Observer‘s Rachel Cooke sat down with the boys to discuss their mutual history, eccentricities and the perhaps ugly reality behind the art world’s pretty veneer. For example, the boys tell Cooke that despite owning a number of their works, The Tate has never, ever put one on display: certainly an odd choice considering their cultural cache. Perhaps, they wonder, there are more powerful cultural forces at work:
George complains that while the Tate owns several of their works, it does not hang them. Why? ‘That’s a question to ask them. You’d think they’d be plugging the show by hanging one, but they don’t even do that.’ Nor has any corporate sponsor for the show been found. So, now in their mid-60s, they’re still basically the untouchables? ‘What, do you think we’re dirty?’ asks Gilbert, mildly.
George’s theory is that homophobia is still alive and well, even in the supposedly liberal and bohemian art world. ‘There’s a lot of closet gay bashing,’ he says… In fact, he thinks the art world and the media are a good deal less tolerant than the man on the street.
We’re a little surprised by this statement – we thought all artists were fags. Guess you really do learn something new everyday.