Pierre et Gilles - Image via sandiegouniontribunecom

Pierre et Gilles /   Pierre Commoy and Gilles Blanchard

France 1977

Digital Art, Photography, Painting

Pierre et Gilles
Pierre Commoy and Gilles Blanchard
August 10, 2016
Ok, I know it's so damn corny to quote somebody just to describe yourself, let alone Confucius, but this quote says all about my relationship with Widewalls, so forgive me for doing this: Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life. Am I forgiven?

Using the creative expression as the mean of commentary of art, religion, popular, and gay culture, French artists and intimate partners Pierre Commoy and Gilles Blanchard, better known as only Pierre and Gilles make distinctive combinations of photography and painting, erasing the line between real and surreal. Their highly stylized hand-painted photographs often attract controversy considering the nudity, provocative poses and themes depicted through the hyper-realistic exaggerated scenes overladen with details and bright colors. Since their first portraits of Iggy Pop, Andy Warhol, and Mick Jagger published in the French magazine Façade, Pierre et Gilles produced numerous commercials, album covers, videos, and artworks.

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Pierre et Gilles – Untitled – Image via etoday.ru (Left) / Untitled – Image via galoremag.com (Right)

Faithful meeting and how it all started

Pierre Commoy was born in 1950 in La Roche-sur-Yon and during the 70’s he studied photography in Geneva, later working for the magazines Rock & Folk, Depeche Mode and Interview. Gilles Blanchard was born in 1953 in Le Havre and after the studies at Ecole des Beaux-Arts, he moved to the capital of France where he painted, made collages and illustrations for magazines and advertisements. Their faithful meeting occurred at the opening of Kenzo boutique in the city of light in 1976 and, as they like to say, they left the party on the same scooter, never separating again. That resulted with a prolific collaboration and passionate relationship that last for forty years. The artists conjoined their mediums and techniques – Pierre was doing a photo and Gilles painting on the print and after the publication of their works for the magazine Façade, with portraits of Andy Warhol, Mick Jagger, and Iggy Pop and the first show in 1983 at Galerie Texbraun in Paris, they entered the spotlight, exhibiting worldwide and having numerous engagements.

At the beginning, they worked for different magazines, getting the first assignment to create the album cover for the album of Amanda Lear, which opened the door for further collaborations with musicians such as Mikado, for whom they directed their first video, Sandii, Etienne Daho, Sheila, and Krootchey. Their pictures are delicious representations that refer to religion, sex and fame. Easily reproducible, they are often seen as postcards, posters, and book illustrations. The creative process starts with precise and carefully designed details, first on drawings and then on an actual scene where opulence of objects and decoration creates a rich theatrical spectacle, emphasized by lighting effects. Pierre et Gilles are also in charge of costumes, choosing the make-up and hairstyle with the help of experts. The next step is photographing and retouching the unique print with paint.

Kylie Minogue was one of the celebrities who the artists perpetuated in their distinctive style

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Pierre et Gilles – The Virgin with the Serpents (Kylie Minogue), 2008 – Image via artfund.org

Attracting the Controversy

Less concerned about theatrical staging at the beginning, their first pieces are characterized by simplicity and unassertive colors. After their travel to India, the artists started to implement religious and mythological themes that later evolved into eroticism, burlesque and children’s tales. Their characters, whether they are friends or famous persons, favors sensuality, sublimity, and eroticism through their roles of sailors, princesses, fishermen or saints. Constantly remodeling the portrait art, this artistic duo moves the limits of contemporary aesthetic using the explicit references to a gay culture spreading the message of tolerance and openness. It was not surprising when the people protested in Vienna in 2012 when their work Vive la France was displayed on large street posters as an advertisement for Nackte Männer or Naked Men, an exhibition created by Ilse Haider at the Leopold Museum. Promoting the idea of multi-ethnic French society, Pierre et Gilles represented three nudes of French footballers, black, Arab and white one, with their genitals fully exposed. Because of the increasing public pressure, the artist was forced to self-censorship, using the colored ribbons to hide the genitals.

Pierre et Gilles move the limits of contemporary aesthetic

Pierre et Gilles – Untitled (Left) / Untitled (Right) – Images via galoremag.com

Forty Years of Successful Collaboration

Works of Pierre et Gilles is displayed in several major international institutions including the Maison Europeenne de la Photographie in France, the Ginza Art Space in Tokyo, the New Museum of Contemporary Art in New York and the Gallery of Modern Art in Glasgow. Their first autobiography named Autobiographie en photomatons 1968-1988 was published in 2012 where they described the 80’s in the capital of France, an important decade for the gay community which started to stepping out of the closet, gathering in the Palace, nightclub inaugurated by Grace Jones. The book also follows three decades of successful collaboration that established the artists as masters of pop portraiture.

Pierre et Gilles live and work in Paris.

Featured image: Pierre et Gilles – Image via sandiegouniontribune.com

YearExhibition TitleGallery/MuseumSolo/Group
2016La planète mode de Jean-Paul Gaultier : de la rue aux étoilesEduchosun CO. LTD, Seoul, South KoreaGroup
2016Everybody is crazy, but meMaison Particulière, Brussels, BelgiumGroup
2016Summer Exhibition Royal Academy of Arts, London, EnglandGroup
2016Love Stories, Les PhotaumnalesLe Quadrilatère, Beauvais, FranceGroup
2015Bonjour la France - To my beloved dearSeongnam Cultural Foundation, Seoul, South KoreaGroup
2015Jean-Paul Gaultier: From the Sidewalk to the CatwalkKunsthalle, Munich, GermanyGroup
2015Genre Idéal Maison Guerlain, Paris, FranceGroup
2014Pierre et Gilles - HerosGalerie Daniel Templon, ParisSolo
2014The Fashion World of Jean Paul Gaultier From the Sidewalk to the CatwalkBarbican Art Gallery, LondonGroup
2014BarocktKulturhuset Stockholm, StockholmGroup
2014Dr Albert DelucqGalerie Coullaud & Koulinsky, ParisGroup
2013The Naked Man - Ludwig MuseumMuseum of Contemporary Art - Budapest, BudapestGroup
2013Face Value: Portraits from The Kinsey InstituteThe Kinsey Institute Gallery, Bloomington, INGroup
2013White - Photography, Art, Design, Fashion, FilmNederlands Fotomuseum, RotterdamGroup
2013Adventures of truth - Painting and philosophyFondation Maeght, Saint-PaulGroup
2012History is Mine!Galerie Jerome de Noirmont, ParisGroup
2012Memories of the futureThe Olbricht Collection - La Maison Rouge, ParisGroup
2012Only you, only meMAMAC Musee d Art Moderne et Contemporain, LiègeGroup
2012The Art of Love, From seduction sensualityGalerie Jerome de Noirmont, ParisGroup
2012Pleasures of FranceGalerie Jerome de Noirmont, ParisGroup
2012OC CollectsOrange County Museum of Art, Newport BeachGroup
2012Performing for the CameraASU Art Museum - Arizona State University Art Museum, Tempe, AZGroup
2012CiblesMusee de la Chasse et de la Nature, ParisGroup
2011ALREADY-MADE ?Galerie Jerome de Noirmont, ParisGroup
2011Not For SalePassage de Retz, ParisGroup
2011Captured (A Portrait Show)Heskin Contemporary, New York City, NYGroup
2010Hope!Palais des Arts Dinard, DinardGroup
2010I love youARoS Aarhus Kunstmuseum, AarhusGroup
2009Portraits faces and peopleKatz Contemporary, ZurichGroup
2009Influence PopGalerie Jerome de Noirmont, ParisGroup
2009Prospect.1 New OrleansProspect New Orleans, New Orleans, LAGroup
2009Wonderful TownGalerie Jerome de Noirmont, ParisSolo
2009Pierre et Gilles . RetrospektiveC.O Berlin, BerlinSolo
2007Expressive Bodies: Contemporary Art Photography from The Kinsey InstituteThe Kinsey Institute Gallery, Bloomington, INGroup
2007Pierre & Gilles - double je Jeu de Paume, ParisSolo
2007CinemaGalerie Jerome de Noirmont, ParisGroup
2006Pierre et Gilles - Un monde parfaitGalerie Jerome de Noirmont, ParisSolo
2006Figures of the Player, the Paradox of the ActorCollection Lambert, AvignonGroup
2006Good Vibrations - Le arti visive e il RockSMS Contemporanea, SienaGroup
2005(my private) HeroesMARTa Herford, HerfordGroup
2004Pierre & Gilles - Beautiful DragonSeoul Museum of Art (SeMA), SeoulSolo
2004Happy BirthdayGalerie Jerome de Noirmont, ParisGroup
2004Winter ShowGalerie Jerome de Noirmont, ParisGroup
2004Becoming Nancy DrewMuseu da Imagem - Photography and Cinema Cultural Association of Braga, BragaGroup
2004Le Grand AmourGalerie Jerome de Noirmont, ParisSolo
2002Pierre & Gilles - Arrache mon coeur KunstHaus Wien, ViennaSolo