By Costanza Beltrami

Gilbert of famous art duo Gilbert and George was born Gilbert Proesch on 17 September 1943 in San Martin de Tor, a small village on the Dolomites in the Italian province of South Tyrol. At the time of Gilbert’s birth, the village and the surrounding region were occupied by the Third Reich following Italy’s surrender to the Allies on 8 September 1943. As the majority of San Martin de Tor’s inhabitants, Gilbert’s family spoke Ladin, a Romance language numbering 31000 native speakers in the alpine valleys of Northeast Italy.

Although journalists report that Gilbert still speaks with an Italian accent, Gilbert and George are usually considered British artists. Indeed, they are based in Fournier Street in London’s East End. The artists, who met on 25 September 1967 at St Martin’s School of Art, have long renounced their separate identities and surnames to become “living sculptures.” This move was a reaction against the elitism of the art world and an attempt to make “Art for Life’s Sake.” Gilbert and George’s pieces often use common situations and everyday inner-city reality as the subject of their artworks.

Reference: Andrew Wilson. “Gilbert and George.” Grove art Online. Oxford art Online. Oxford University Press,

The village of San Martin de Tor.

The medieval castle of Castel Tor in San Martin de Tor, now the Ladin Museum.

Gilbert and George in Fournier Street, East London, 2009. Photo: Paula Bailey.

Installation photo of Gilbert and George’s Death Hope Life Fear, 1984, at the Gilbert and George retrospective, Brooklyn Museum, October 2008–January 2011. Photo: Diego Luis.

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