Gilbert + George Quit the Royal Academy

Paul Wright July 14, 2020

Gilbert and George, the perennial enfants terribles of the art world, have quit the prestigious Royal Academy of Art (RA) after the RA decided not to go ahead with an exhibition of their work. The duo had been led to believe an exhibition was planned and gave interviews in February mentioning a forthcoming show at the RA whose gallery is based in Picadilly, London. Gilbert and George were the first duo in the RA`s 250 year history to be elected as academicians as a sole entity with one vote.

“It is extraordinary that we’ve been able to risk extreme artwork for 40 years,” said Gilbert in February. “You have to be an outsider to do art, you can’t be normal.” An RA spokeswoman expressed regret that Gilbert and George were leaving the RA. “The RA is forced to make decisions about who to show and when. Not all academicians can have an exhibition,” she added.

The visual and conceptual artists always exhibit jointly and have provoked strong reactions to their work over the years. They first gained their reputation with a joint self portrait, George The C**t And Gilbert The S**t. in 1969. For a long time they sidestepped questions about their relationship but did have a civil partnership n 2008. George Passmore, 78, first met Gilbert Prousch, 76, at in 1967 St Martins School of Art in London. At the time Gilbert, originally from Italy, was married to a woman, the artist Patricia Stevens, with whom he had a son and daughter. As artists they reacted against approaches to sculpture then dominant at St Martin’s, which they believed were elitist and poor at communicating outside an art context. Their strategy was to make themselves into sculpture, so sacrificing their separate identities to art and turning the notion of creativity on its head. In 1986 they won the Tuner Prize.


In 2018 Brighton Museum and Library hosted an exhibition of their work which explored themes including sex, faith and identity.

During lockdown they have remained productive, posting a weekly online diary. Gilbert and George are represented by the White Cube gallery in London who have not commented on the departure from the RA.