Gilbert & George. There Were Two Young Men, April 1971

Exhibition From 03.07.2019 to 26.08.2019
From 03.07.2019 to 26.08.2019

From 3 July to 26 August 2019, the Fondation presents a complete version of a rare series by Gilbert & George, “There Were Two Young Men” (April 1971), a “Charcoal on Paper sculpture” in six parts belonging to the Fondation’s collection. This work was first shown in 1971 at the Sperone Gallery in Turin. It is part of a series of 13 sculptures, created between 1970 and 1974, and now dispersed throughout the world.

Thanks to its monumental proportions, There Were Two Young Men involves an immersive relationship with the viewer. This “sculpture” depicts two protagonists – the artists – in a bucolic environment whose hedonism is tinged with melancholy. They seem to be conversing quietly, leaning on a tree, in the spirit of neo-romantic British landscape painting. The graphic intrusions, in each part of the “sculpture”, from the title in capitals which pins down the image, to a handwritten poetic text in capitals and lowercase letters, adds a further complexity, alluding to the universe of popular poetry and nursery rhymes. 

There Were Two Young Men is presented alongside other works by Gilbert & George created from a similar inspiration, such as Limericks (1971) – also in the Fondation’s Collection – a "Postal Sculpture" in eight parts whose illustrations have been taken from pictures of bomb sites, paths beside the Thames or rural Suffolk, while citing the same texts of vernacular poetry as There Were Two Young Men. Respecting the desire of the artists, Nature Photo Piece (1971), a composition of black-and-white photographs features in the exhibition, as well as two contemporary Video Sculptures

"Gilbert & George. There Were Two Young Men, April 1971" is presented in conjunction with The Collection of the Fondation. A Vision for Painting which brings together a selection of 70 pieces from the Collection produced by 23 international artists, from the 1960s to the present day. This exhibition focuses on the pictural medium, in all its diversity: figurative or abstract, expressive or distanced. 

"Gilbert & George want to make every work of art 'a love letter" to the viewer, and to accept the viewer's feelings as a contribution to the piece"

The artists

Gilbert & George

Soon after graduating from Saint Martin’s School of Art, where they met in 1967, Gilbert & George rose to fame through their self-proclaimed “living sculptures”.

Wearing conventional suits, their faces impassive and covered with coloured powder, they perform a 1930s song, Underneath the Arches, an anthem of the lower classes, choosing to distance themselves from their immediate artistic entourage, who were more formalist and conceptual. In everyday settings, they walk, sing, read and drink, building up a body of visual material that they assembled from the early 1970s, first in black and white, then in colour, in grid formats that have frequently been compared to stained glass. Proclaiming it as “art for all”, they developed a new humanism with a universal content while refusing to provide an interpretation. Religion, sexuality, death and violence, the stuff of tabloid headlines, are the main themes of their compositions, which are inspired by their life in a working-class area of East London, where they have lived for all of their artistic career. In 2004 they began to use computers to create increasingly sophisticated allegories reflecting changes in contemporary society.

The curators

Head Curator: Suzanne Pagé

Curator: Claire Staebler

Architect in charge of the scenography: Marco Palmieri 

Extend your visit

Talk: Gilbert & George and Hans Ulrich Obrist

Découvrez les artistes derrières ces œuvres monumentales lors d'une rencontre dans l'auditorium de la Fondation.


Relive the exhibition through commentary audio by the co-curator of Gilbert & Goerge, There Were Two Young Men, (April 1971) presented at the Fondation.