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Photographers – painters

Pierre Commoy, born in 1950
Gilles Blanchard, born in 1953
in Le Havre
They live in Pré Saint-Gervais (93)

Pierre et Gilles embody a highly sophisticated form of portrait art, in between photography and painting. They bring a touch of humanity to the stars and their artificial beauty, glorify ordinary people, and re-enchant the world with their superb heroes drawn from mythology, the Bible and fairy tales.
Fed on art and cinema and fueled by a passion for every kind of popular culture, the images painted by Pierre and Gilles are firmly rooted in today’s world with all its political interrogations, while providing a kind of mirror image of it.

This cultural melting pot blends dark tones with more joyous touches in an attempt to reconcile generations, genres and styles, as an apology of a fragile humanity where each and every being is exceptional.

In 1969, Gilles Blanchard (born in 1953 in Le Havre) enrolled at the Le Havre school of fine arts. He graduated with distinction three years later after presenting collages of stickers and pictures he had gathered. He spent a lot of time at the cinema. In 1972, Pierre Commoy (born in 1950 in La Roche-sur-Yon) arrived in Paris, after completing a course in photography in Geneva. He started working as a freelance photographer for Rock & Folk, Interview, Façade and Dépêche Mode magazines. That same year, Gilles also moved to Paris where he continued the photobooth collection he had begun aged 15. Pierre et Gilles met at a party thrown by Kenzo in 1976. They were soon inseparable and moved into their first workshop-apartment on rue des Blancs-Manteaux in Paris. They then embarked on their first joint project - photographs of their friends grimacing at the camera against some colorful backgrounds. The colors in the prints were not vivid enough in their opinion so they decided to brighten them up with paint. And so their partnership began, with Pierre as the photographer and Gilles the painter.

In 1977, they made their first trip to Morocco where they were struck by the brightly-colored images of stars and by the practice of studio photography. In the late seventies, they produced posters and invitations for various events, most notably for the recently opened Le Palace nightclub (Paris). In 1979, they made their first trip to India, another visual shock which became a huge source of inspiration. Over the years, they would continue to travel and learn, visiting destinations such as the Maldives, Sri Lanka, Japan and Laos.

Their first solo show took place in 1983 at Galerie Texbraun in Paris. In 1984, they took part in ‘Ateliers 84’ in the ARC department of the City of Paris' Museum of Modern Art. Galerie Samia Saouma in Paris started to represent them in 1998, followed by Galerie Jérôme de Noirmont, Paris. They have been represented by Galerie Daniel Templon, Paris-Brussels, since 2013. In 1990, Pierre et Gilles moved to Pré-Saint-Gervais. They set up a photo studio and a painting studio in their apartment.

A retrospective of their work was shown at the Maison Européenne de la Photographie in Paris in 1996, accompanied by the first reference monograph dedicated to their work. Other exhibitions followed, in France (Jeu de Paume - accompanied by a second monograph - and Musée d’Orsay, Paris, in 2007) and abroad (New Museum, New York, and Yerba Buena Center in San Francisco, in 2000, Seoul Museum of Art and Singapore Art Museum, in 2004, MoCA, Shanghai, in 2005, Moscow House of Photography in 2007, etc.). They have also taken part in an array of group exhibitions, such as ‘La Beauté’ in Avignon in 2000, and ‘Paris-Delhi-Bombay’ at the Centre Pompidou, Paris, in 2011.

In 2006, Pierre et Gilles developed their painted photograph technique further, starting to work on photographs printed on to canvas using ink-jet printers and then painted. They turned to digital photography in 2015, using a 24 x 36 camera. Their monograph, Pierre et Gilles. 40, was published by Editions Flammarion in 2016.

In 2017, the Ixelles museum in Brussels and Le Havre’s MuMa – André Malraux modern art museum are devoting a major retrospective to Pierre et Gilles, curated by Sophie Duplaix, head curator of contemporary collections at France’s national modern art museum - Centre Pompidou, Paris.

Les Deux Marins – Autoportrait (Pierre et Gilles), 1993, photographie peinte, pièce unique, sans cadre : 69 x 87 cm, The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, Gift of Manfred Heiting, The Manfred Heiting Collection, 2002.1841© Pierre et Gilles 

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