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

Past exhibition - From 3 July to 26 August 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 word.


Thanks to its monumental proportions, There Were Two Young Men suggests 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 60s to now. This exhibition focuses on the pictural medium, in all its diversity: figurative or abstract, expressive or distanced. 

The artists

Gilbert & George

Born in 1943 and 1942, in the Dolomites (Italy) and Devon (England), they live and work in London (UK). Shortly after leaving Saint Martin’s School of Art, where they met in 1967, Gilbert & George came to recognition by becoming “Living Sculpture”. 

Dressed in plain suits, with impassive faces and covered with multicolour metallic powder, in The Singing Sculpture they performed a song from the 1930s, Underneath the Arches, alluding to the world of the underclasses. The artists immediately chose to stand out from the formalist, conceptual artistic context of the period, by choosing a figurative language. From a staging of everyday life (walking, singing, reading, drinking), they derive a visual material which they have been exploiting since the early 1970s in pictures, firstly black and white, then in colour. Right from the start, their art bears testimony to the consistency of their position, favouring a figuration which was disparaged at the time, with the declared objective of an Art for All. Another constant in Gilbert & George’s art is the choice of a form that communicates directly, in a spirit of exchange with the viewer, in which individual emotions are felt at their most real and attain universality.




Head Curator: Suzanne Pagé

Curator: Claire Staebler


Architect in charge of the scenography: Marco Palmieri 

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From 3 July to 26 August 2019

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Gilbert & George, There were two young men, 1971. © Gilbert & George, DR Crédit photo : © Primae / David Bordes

Gilbert & George, There were two young men, 1971. © Gilbert & George, DR Crédit photo : © Primae / David Bordes

Gilbert & George, There were two young men, 1971. © Gilbert & George, DR Crédit photo : © Primae / David Bordes

Gilbert & George, There were two young men, 1971. © Gilbert & George, DR Crédit photo : © Primae / David Bordes

Gilbert & George, There were two young men, 1971. © Gilbert & George, DR Crédit photo : © Primae / David Bordes


There Were Two Young Men produces an immediate and immersive effect on the viewer. This is intentional. 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.

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