Pierre et Gilles: Four Decades of Decadence

❉ A brief history of the legendary photography duo’s star-studded forty year career…

Pierre et Gilles – ‘Etienne Daho: La Notte’ (1984, Virgin France)

You may not instantly recognise the names of Pierre Commoy and Gilles Blanchard but you will almost certainly know their work. They are a French artistic couple, better known professionally as ‘Pierre et Gilles’ and since 1976 have worked with a number of (often subversive) cultural figures including Amanda Lear, Daho, Marie France, Erasure, The Creatures, Tilda Swinton, Naomi Campbell, and Nina Hagen to name but a few of their extensive clientele list. They have also, perhaps most famously, worked with their fellow countryman, John-Paul Gaultier whose homoerotic ‘sailor’ ads, to promote his range of perfumes, are somewhat legendary.

Pierre et Gilles – ‘Nina Hagen: Revolution Ballroom’ (1994, Mercury Records)

In 1976, the duo met at the inauguration of a Kenzo boutique in Paris, and started living together as lovers in an apartment that they also used as a studio. The following year they started working together. Commoy took the photos and Blanchard would do the painting. Their public breakthrough came with their images for the magazine Façade, with portraits of Andy Warhol, Mick Jagger and Iggy Pop. In 1979, they made their first works for fashion designer Thierry Mugler.

Pierre et Gilles – ‘Iggy Pop’, Facade magazine (1977).

Their work has been displayed in museums and art galleries across the world and they have featured in an array of periodicals and media. The first artist to ask them to create an album cover was Amanda Lear.

Pierre et Gilles – ‘Amanda Lear: Diamonds’ (1980, Sony BMG)

In 1984 the artistic duo produced an album cover for Etienne Daho’s album ‘La Notte’ and they would continue to work with Daho for many years to come.

In 1987, Pierre et Gilles travelled to India, and started working on religious and mythological images which they developed as common themes for their work, using the brightly jewelled colours of the sub-continent to develop and enhance their ideologies with a number of glamorous women including singers Marie France and Siouxsie Sioux.

Pierre et Gilles – ‘Paloma Picasso’ (1990)

In 1989 they befriended Marc Almond when he asked them to produce a cover for his sixth studio album, ‘Enchanted’, as their stylised and romanticised portraits appealed to the singer in the same way they had with Daho. They went on to direct Almond’s 1990 video from that album, ‘A Lover Spurned’ and so the professional relationship began. Almond has been quoted as saying that this is the favourite album cover of his own work.

Pierre et Gilles/Green Ink – ‘Marc Almond: Enchanted’ (1989, Parlophone)

Almond worked with Pierre and Gilles on his fan club only CD with Marie France, (Marc et Marie as “The Lovers”) and they went on to produce many more images with the torch singer including works entitled “Le Diable” (The Devil, perhaps also referencing Almond’s cover of Brel’s song “The Devil, Okay”), and Le Buveur D’Absinthe (“The Absinthe Drinker”).

So what does the future hold for the creative duo? In the early part of 2017 there will be a major retrospective of their works to be displayed at the Ixelles Museum, Paris (more information here) which will showcase their celebrated self-censored homoerotic themes, the sailors, the women of mystery and delight, the girls and the boys and subversive celebrities galore.

Pierre et Gilles – ‘Renaissance’ (1999)

So who’s next in their cavalcade of celebrity? They’d both like to work with Justin Beiber, Nick Jonas and Topher di Magio, the gay porn star of the moment. Other sought after icons include Daniel Craig and Instagram star Candy Ken 69. Proof, were it needed that the couple are always one step ahead of their peers; they’re always looking to work with the next big name with which they can enhance with their artistry, and they’re just as enthusiastic about it all as they were four decades ago.

❉  Pierre & Gilles have recently released a book charting their entire career, ‘Pierre et Gilles 40’ covering their works from 1976 and spanning the four decades they have been together.

❉  Ange Chan is a poet and novelist. Her fourth poetry collection “Fame; What’s Your Name?” was published in paperback and ebook earlier this year. Her second novel “Baby, Can You Hear Me?” was also published in paperback and Kindle.

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