Out100: Pierre et Gilles
Photography by Danielle Levitt
Pierre Commoy and Gilles Blanchard met in 1976 at the opening of a Kenzo boutique in Paris, and just months later began what would become a nearly four-decade-long artistic and romantic partnership. To this day, their inimitable high-gloss, hyberbolic painted celebrity portraits — of everyone from Marc Jacobs and Madonna to Jean Paul Gaultier and Tilda Swinton — are all done completely by hand (as not to distort the integrity and character of the subject’s face).
The pair conceive of the images together; Pierre (right) snaps the black-and-white and color shots that serve as the base images, and Gilles (left) embellishes them with pastel-colored dots to give them their dazzling, dreamlike, charmingly kitsch effect. It’s a painstaking process that usually takes three weeks and entails constructing elaborate sets (forests, ice palaces, and fields of grass, with jewels and crosses and assorted other opulent accoutrements) — all in the silver- star-and-pink-tulle-covered studio that doubles as their home.
Seven of their pieces are currently on display in the exhibit “Masculine/Masculine: The Nude Man in Art from 1800 to the Present Day” at the Musée d’Orsay in Paris, and this past winter they debuted Vive Les Mariés, a self-portrait of the couple in tuxedos, holding hands under an arch of roses, that served not only as tribute to the passing of marriage equality in France but also as a celebration of their own lifelong journey. The work actually marked the second time they’d depicted themselves in a wedding scenario — the first, in 1993, featured Gilles in a bridal gown.
Photographed at their home in Paris on September 28, 2013