British art duo Gilbert and George hailed as ‘timeless and prescient’ at opening of their new London museum

Britain Gilbert and George (Copyright 2023 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)
Britain Gilbert and George (Copyright 2023 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)

The iconic British art duo Gilbert and George marked the historic grand opening of their new art museum in London on Tuesday (28 March).

The Gilbert & George Centre, which opens to the public on Saturday 1 April, is a permanent space for their work. Each year, one or two exhibits will be programmed, featuring new and historical pictures.

In honour of the Centre’s inaugural exhibitions, Paradisical Pictures and Corpsing Pictures, Gilbert and George were joined by White Cube gallerist Jay Jopling and other important art figures to celebrate the pair’s “strength” and “unwavering partnership”.

“Tonight is a historic moment,” Jopling began in his speech. “A moment that pays testimony to the strength of Gilbert and George’s unwavering partnership, one that has lasted over five and a half decades since they met in 1967 at St Martins School of Art.

“This meeting of minds, this crossing of paths, radically changed both of their lives and has, in turn, changed all of our lives in some lesser, albeit curious and exciting, ways.”

Speaking about how the duo “have managed to defy any notions of time”, Jopling hailed them as “timeless and prescient”.

“It feels as though they have always existed and will always continue to exist,” he said, praising the artists’ work for “an urgent certainty in how they mirror the world that exists around them, reflecting disconcerting truths on subjects as diverse as sex, money, race, religion, love, hope and fear”.

Britain Gilbert and George (Copyright 2023 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)
Britain Gilbert and George (Copyright 2023 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)

Jopling recalled his own art journey, which he said had involved Gilbert and George from the very beginning.

“To say they have been a huge influence on me would be an understatement,” he said.

“The art of Gilbert and George unceasingly confronts me with the truths and realities of modern life and their pictures have unashamedly forced me to react and to feel. In a career lasting more than most, they remain in the firmament as outstanding artists of our time and it has been my absolute privilege to work with them over the past 23 years.”

Introducing the duo’s most recent body of work, The Corpsing Pictures, Jopling described the collection as “arguably their most profoundly personal and confrontational pictures to date”.

Addressing the “incredible Paradisical Pictures”, Jopling considered them Gilbert and George’s “most hallucinogenic” artwork.

“You once said to me, ‘We make art because we want to win and be loved,’” Jopling said, addressing the duo. “Well tonight, you have achieved exactly that. You are winning and you are loved.”

Expressing their gratitude for their new space in a recent interview with The Independent, Gilbert and George said: “We believe that art is the ultimate democratising power. It changes people. We like expressing ourselves and now our works will be on display forever. It is about being alive. That is what it is.

“We open to the world. We never look back; whatever is finished, is finished. We only look at what is in front of us every day.”

The Gilbert & George Centre opens to the public on 1 April in London.