The following article was published in N-SPHERE November 2010 issue.


Pierre et Gilles are Pierre Commoy, born in 1949 in La Roche–sur–Yon and Gilles Blanchard, born in 1953 in Le Havre. They created through their artistic symbiosis of photography and painting a magnificent authentic universe. They have been inseparable ever since they met at a party in Paris in 1976, having solo exhibitions all over the world in Paris (European House of Photography), Glasgow (Museum of Modern Art), Tokyo (Ginza Art Space), Turku (Turun Taide Museum), New York (New Museum of Contemporary Art), San Francisco (Yerba Buena Arts Center for the Arts) or Vienna (Kunsthaus Wien).

Having worked together for 30 years, they produced over 700 artworks including portraits of celebrities from all over the world such as Salvador Dali, Yves Saint–Laurent, Paloma Picasso, Nina Hagen, Boy George, Catherine Deneuve, Kylie Minogue, Claudia Schiffer, Laetitia Casta, Dalida, Juliette Greco and close friends like Marc Almond or Nina Hagen or just random people. They create an unique experience of artificial settings, theatre elements, decors, lighthing, make–up, hairstyles, costumes made from special, varied material, sometimes receiving help from known specialists.

Their style is immediately recognizable because of their distinguishable technique, which leads to creating a unique handmade object: after Pierre takes the picture of the model, Gilles, without any digital manipulation and only by using successive layers of glaze and paint, brush and airbrush, adds new elements to the original frame transforming a reproducible photography into a unique piece. The boundaries between media of artistic expression are erased, and the photograph gradually transforms into a painting where their models find perfection and become porn or pop stars, religious figures, gods, saints, sailors, human clichés, at the crossroad of the sacred and profane, beautiful and ugly, good and evil, popular culture and classical elements.

Instead of representing the world as one marked by violence, they consider that they have the task to create a fairy–tale universe, dominated by kitsch, which is a result of mixing elements from Asian culture, extracted from their visits in Morocco, India, Thailand, while finding adorable the chromatics of these places and the people’s way of being.

To them, kitsch is just a way to meditate about themes as love and hate, tenderness and violence, and to combine commercial and high art, poetry, glamour and homoeroticism, adding to their artificially enhanced subjects exotic backgrounds with star–filled night sky, floating clouds, forest floors or industrial cityscapes and frames with flowers, branches, trees. Pierre et Gilles, like many other gay artists, focus on the male body, homoeroticism being one major aspect of their artwork. They use beautiful melancholic male models, naked or partially dressed, with muscular bodies, heavy face make–up, playing with notions such as masculinity, perfection, superficiality, body in modern gay culture.

Artwork: Pierre & Gilles 1992 Les Maries Models: Pierre et Gilles Courtesy of Galerie Jérôme de Noirmont, Paris

by Anca Stirbacu

Full article here.