The times are hard, and a critical reaction to the current social and political circumstances seems fitting like never before. Art has a unique potential to problematize the ongoing changes and possibly bring alternative modes of thinking and acting into the light. Not necessarily all the artists tend to be critical, however even the slightest contribution is relevant, especially when it comes from the established figures.
Ever since the mid-1970s, Pierre et Gilles have been dazzling the spectators around the globe with their flamboyant campy imagery that features idealized queer bodies. By combining painting and photography, they develop high-end fantasy worlds filled with passion, eroticism, and even melancholy.
Although their practice hasn’t been interpreted as critically engaged, Pierre et Gilles's recent series that will be displayed this autumn at Galerie Templon prove that their domains span far beyond pure aestheticism as their concern for the present social issues relates to their decades-long fascination with the matter of representation.
With this new series of portraits, Pierre et Gilles continue to pursue their exploration of the notion of the icon, which is now translated through a more socially engaged prism focused on the forgotten martyrs and heroes of daily life.
Here it is important to mention that these works are a result of their elaborate working process of preparing the set, accessories, and lights, and the fact the final image functions almost as a painting accentuated by the original frame, specially crafted by the artists.
The upcoming exhibition will be centered around the artists' recent self-portrait made in their studio during the lockdown. Under the title Bonjour Pierre et Gilles, the work refers to Gustave Courbet's painting Bonjour Monsieur Courbet as it depicts the artists as working class, homeless people, perhaps Yellow Vest protestors wandering among housing estates and residential suburbs.
The mentioned image indicates a more socio-politically charged agenda undertaken by Pierre et Gilles that is further developed with works thematizing the sea and the underwater world that is increasingly under threat. The fantastic scenes embalmed with the litter gathered on the beaches of Le Havre, Gilles's hometown, are simultaneously strangely beautiful and alarming as they reflect the artists' articulation of the changing world.
The work of Pierre et Gilles was the subject of numerous exhibitions, including a celebrated retrospective at the Maison Européenne de la Photographie in 1996, New York’s New Museum in 2000, Museum of Contemporary Art in Shanghai in 2005, Jeu de Paume in Paris in 2007, and 2017 retrospective entitled Clair-Obscur at the Brussels Musée d’Ixelles.
This year, before the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic, two critically acclaimed Pierre et Gilles exhibitions were held in France - at La Fabrique des Idoles at the Philharmonie de Paris, and Le Goût du Cinéma at the Centre d’art La Malmaison in Cannes.
Motionless Wanderings will be on display at Galerie Templon in Paris from 10 September until 24 October 2020.
Featured image: Pierre et Gilles - Le vendeur de tours Eiffel (Ibrahima Ramon Magassa), 2019. Ink-jet photograph printed on canvas and painted, 105,5 x 133,5 cm ; 41 1/2 x 52 1/2 in. All images © Courtesy Templon, Paris - Brussels.