‘Art For All’ with Gilbert & George

Gilbert & George in the courtyard of The Gilbert & George Centre by Tom Oldham. ©Tom Oldham. Courtesy The Gilbert & George Centre.

Gilbert & George have never shied away from politics, even if their beliefs have often made them outliers in the art world. The duo, who make large-scale photo and text-based works, have long used their art to examine the socio-political landscape, documenting everything from London subcultures, to fringe sexuality, to current events. The sometimes controversial artists began their infamous series, titled The Pictures, in 1971, using these bold and graphic works to address modern life in all of its absurdity, touching on themes of violence, social justice, turbulence, and morality.

In 2012, Gilbert & George opened London Pictures at White Cube Gallery. The exhibition, which featured 292 works culled from over 4,000 newspapers and magazines stolen by the duo over the decades, was a survey on the reality of contemporary urban life, rife with social, cultural, and political messaging. The works themselves featured phrases ripped directly from the headlines—“Commuters stranded by 50M Tube strike;” “Police target domestic violence;” “Police Chief’s pledge over murder”—allowing “contemporary society to recount itself in its own language,” wrote Michael Bracewell of the exhibition.

London Pictures, The Gilbert & George Centre. Photo Credit: Prudence Cuming. © Gilbert & George. Courtesy of The Gilbert & George Centre.

Twelve years later, Gilbert & George are exhibiting London Pictures again, this time, at their very own The Gilbert & George Centre. Opening April 12, the exhibition highlights 28 of the original 292 works, prompting viewers to “consider how society has changed and what has remained central to our shared experience.”

What has not changed, is Gilbert & George’s approach—an anti-elitist belief that focuses on art for all. Originally established in 2009, The Gilbert & George Centre is a charitable organization founded “with the objective to advance the education of the public in the arts, architecture, heritage, and culture.” In 2015, the Centre purchased an old industrial building in East London with plans to house the artists’ work for view by the public. During the restoration process, Gilbert & George turned their attention to sustainability, integrating environmentally conscious features that include “sustainable use of energy, water and material resources, as well as socio-economic and whole life cycle considerations for the building.”

The Gilbert & George Centre officially opened its doors in 2023. London Pictures will be its second exhibition.

London, London Pictures, 2011. © Gilbert & George. Courtesy The Gilbert & George Centre.

To support the Centre, Gilbert & George have also released a series of limited edition prints, and exclusive ink washes. The ‘ART FOR ALL’ ink washes are hand painted by the duo—each one is unique, created in their signature vibrant and graphic style with heavy brush strokes, ink splatters and gold drips. “It’s simple, from the very first day, we really did want to make Art For All,” says the duo, a vision embodied by The Gilbert & George Centre, and by works like London Pictures. The series, like the Centre, is its own space for public education: by allowing viewers to see themselves, the artists also create a space for growth.

‘London Pictures’ is on view at The Gilbert & George Centre, beginning April 12. You can purchase ‘ART FOR ALL’ ink washes here.