Gilbert was born in the Dolomites, Italy and studied at Hallein School of Art and Munich School of Art. George was born in Devon, England and studied at Dartington Hall College of Art and Oxford School of Art. They began working together shortly after first meeting at St Martin's School of Art, London in 1967, and have continued to do so ever since. Their first solo exhibition was in 1968 at Frank's Sandwich Bar, Silver Place in the West End of London, and their first public gallery exhibition was at the Whitechapel Art Gallery, London in 1971. Since then Gilbert & George have had innumerable exhibitions throughout the world and retrospectives at many major museums, including: the Stedelijk van Abbemuseum, Eindhoven and tour in1980-1981, Baltimore Museum of Art and US tour in 1984 - 1985, China Art Gallery, Beijing and the Art Museum, Shanghai in 1993, the Musée d'Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris in 1997, and Centro Cultural de Belém, Lisbon in 2002. They were awarded the Turner Prize at the Tate Gallery, London in 1986 and were commissioned by the British Council to produce a new exhibition Ginkgo Pictures for the British Pavilion at the LI Venice Biennale of Art in 2005. Gilbert & George live and work in London.
Gilbert & George invented and have been constantly developing their own visual language: "the content of mankind is our subject and our inspiration." Using themselves as the primary subject of their art, they first appeared as 'Living Sculpture' in 1969. Wearing conventional suits, with their faces and hands painted, they would either adopt statuesque poses which lasted for several hours or, in the case of their most famous live performance Underneath the Arches, they were the 'Singing Sculpture', standing on a table singing to a record of the old English music hall song of the same title. In addition to these durational performances, they made 'Postcard Sculptures', 'Magazine Sculptures' and were early pioneers of video art with their 'Sculptures on Video Tape' such as Portrait of the Artists as Young Men and In the Bush, both from 1972. Between 1970 and 1974 they executed thirty 'Charcoal on Paper Sculptures', large drawings in charcoal with text which in some instances completely covered the gallery walls and ceilings. In 1971 they made a series of paintings in oil on canvas entitled The Paintings (with Us in the Nature), a body of work which they again referred to as 'sculpture'. Photography was to become their primary medium and, from the mid 1970s to the present, they have produced an enormous body of wall based works. From the outset, they used a grid to enable them to work on a large scale, and the early photographic work was initially limited to black and white, with the latter addition of colour. In the early 1980s they began to work on an even greater scale, introducing a more saturated field of colour and using ever more powerful and uncompromising imagery to explore their unique vision on all aspects of human nature.
Carter Ratcliffe, Gilbert & George 1968 to 1980, Municipal Van Abbemuseum, Eindhoven, 1980
Wolf Jahn, The Art of Gilbert & George, Thames and Hudson Limited, London, 1989
Gilbert & George, Béatrice Parent, Bernard Marcadé, Wolf Jahn, Rudi Fuchs, an interview with Martin Gayford and texts by Gilbert & George, Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris, Paris, 1997
Gilbert & Geoge: Ginkgo Pictures; Venice Biennale 2005, edited by Richard Riley with texts by Daniel Birmbaum an Michael Bracewell, British Council 2005