October 14th, 2021 – March 6th, 2022

Gilbert & George, Class War, Militant, Gateway, 1986 (detail). © Gilbert & George. Courtesy of the artists.

Pursuing the Fondation Louis Vuitton’s mission of showcasing exclusive holdings of the Collection to a broader international public, the Espace Louis Vuitton Tokyo presents for the first time in Japan the iconic monumental triptych Class War, Militant, Gateway (1986) by Gilbert & George, within the framework of the ongoing “Hors-les-murs” programme. This programme unfolds at the Espaces Louis Vuitton in Tokyo, Munich, Venice, Beijing, Seoul and Osaka.

Gilbert Prousch (b. 1943 in San Martin de Tor, Italy) and George Passmore (b. 1942 in Plymouth, United Kingdom) met in 1967, at Saint Martin’s School of Art in London. Soon after, they decided to form a duet, Gilbert & George, giving as early as 1969 one of their first public performances: Singing Sculpture. In this piece, they stood on a table, faces made up with bronze powder, and intonated Bud Flanagan and Chesney Allen’s song Underneath the Arches from the eponymous 1937 movie by Canadian director Redd Davis. Introducing their “living sculptures” concept, this performance took one of the ambitions of 20th-century art – to abolish all distinctions between art and life – and made it their own. In their conventional suits and ties, Gilbert & George literally embodied characters: maintaining an impassive expression in any circumstances, they struck poses in galleries and museums like statues.
In 1971, they started to use photography in an effort to promote an “art for all”, recycling from a grab bag of popular British and international culture that has been shaped and broadcasted by the media. Religion, sexuality, death and violence splashed across the cover pages of tabloids became the principal themes of their compositions, inspired by their lives in a working-class neighbourhood in the East End of London where they settled at the beginning of their joint career. Gilbert & George developed a new kind of humanism with a universal content, and yet refused to impose an unequivocal interpretation of it.
Their famous photo montages are rigorously composed according to precise rules: first black-and-white, then colourised, and their configuration in grid has often been compared to stained glass. The use of computer graphics, that they started in 2004, enabled them to produce increasingly sophisticated allegorical compositions.

The Collection features a considerable ensemble of works by Gilbert & George dating from 1971 to 2019 that has been completed with pieces from their latest series. A manifesto for a modern epic poem, Class War, Militant, Gateway (1986) was their first monumental piece. It illustrates the individual’s adventure, from affiliation with a community to the emergence of a personal conscience and self-affirmation. As in most of their works, the images are arranged in a grid of black frames to form a frieze dominated by red, white and blue. Gilbert & George substitute the vertical “pyramid of oppression” by the horizontality of a society that no longer appears to be divided according to class. This democratic harmonisation is represented here through work blues (whether simple trousers or gym shorts) in which all the characters in the foreground are dressed to the waist.

Gilbert & George’s work has not been shown in Japan since 2009. The Espace Louis Vuitton Tokyo is all the more honoured to present this exclusive masterpiece from the Collection.

About the Fondation Louis Vuitton
The Fondation Louis Vuitton serves the public interest and is exclusively dedicated to contemporary art and artists, as well as 20th-century works to which their inspirations can be traced. The Collection and the exhibitions it organises seek to engage a broad public. The magnificent building created by the Canadian-American architect Frank Gehry, and already recognized as an emblematic example of the 21st-century architecture, constitutes the Fondation’s seminal artistic statement. Since its opening in October 2014, the Fondation has welcomed more than six million visitors from France and around the world.

The Fondation Louis Vuitton commits to engage in international initiatives, both at the Fondation and in partnership with public and private institutions, including other foundations and museums such as the Pushkin Museum in Moscow and the Hermitage Museum in Saint-Petersburg (Icons of Modern Art: The Shchukin Collection in 2016 and The Morozov Collection in 2021), the MoMA in New York (Being Modern: MoMA in Paris), and the Courtauld Institute of Art in London (The Courtauld Collection. A Vision for Impressionism) among others. The artistic direction also developed a specific “Hors-les-murs” programme taking place within the Espaces Louis Vuitton in Tokyo, Munich, Venice, Beijing and Seoul, which are exclusively devoted to exhibitions of works from the Collection. These exhibitions are open to the public free of charge and promoted through specific cultural communication.


Gilbert & George

Gilbert Prousch (b. 1943 in San Martin de Tor, Italy), and George Passmore (b. 1942 in Plymouth, United Kingdom) live and work in London (United Kingdom). They met in 1967, at Saint Martin’s School of Art in London and decided soon after to form a duet, Gilbert & George.

After staging performances and developing their drawing techniques, Gilbert & George began to use photography in 1971, creating black-and-white compositions in a variety of formats to form scattered wall arrangements. Beginning in 1974, they began to assemble multiple photographs into a single composition where the black outlines of the frames structure the image like the blocks of a grid. Since the early 2000s, the use of computer graphics has made it possible for them to produce ever more sophisticated allegories that speak to the developments of the contemporary world.
Gilbert & George have been exhibiting on an international scale since 1970. They received the Turner Prize in 1986, represented the United Kingdom at the Venice Biennale of 2005, and were honoured with a great retrospective at the Tate Modern in London in 2007. More recently, their work has appeared in private exhibitions in such prestigious institutions as Kunsthalle Zürich, Switzerland (2020); Moderna Museet, Stockholm, Sweden (2019); Ludwig Museum, Budapest, Hungary (2017); MoMA, New York City, USA (2015); and New National Museum of Monaco (2014) among others.


Class War, Militant, Gateway (1986)

Exhibition view at Hong Kong Museum of Art (Louis Vuitton: A Passion for Creation, 2009)

© Gilbert & George
Photo credits © Louis Vuitton Malletier

Class War, Militant, Gateway (1986)

Exhibition view at Fondation Louis Vuitton (2015)

© Gilbert & George
Photo credits © Fondation Louis Vuitton / Marc Domage


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