Toronto
2 min

From lurid to holy

Journey into the colourful world of art-fag heroes of kitsch

DEVILICIOUS. Marc Almond is one of many stars that have gone for glmaour make-over for artists Pierre and Gilles. Credit: Xtra files

You know a Pierre and Gilles picture as soon as you see it: impossibly smooth faces, richly decorated bodies and backgrounds, and glamour lighting not seen since Hollywood’s Golden Era. The photo-paintings of two Parisian art-fag-lover-genius-saints named Pierre and Gilles have drawn everybody from Rupert Everett and Madonna to Catherine Deneuve under their spell and into their vision of idealized beauty, kitsch and eroticism.



Now they’re the subject of an hour-long documentary, receiving its Canadian premiere on Bravo later this month. It’s the perfect introduction to a pair who have taken that exquisite homo sensibility – peculiar to the best artisans, stylists and decorators – and raised it to the point where no contemporary art museum anywhere is complete without one of their works.



It’s easy to be seduced by the sheer gorgeousness of their work, which brings out the hidden mystery and purity in their subjects like no one else can. Catherine Deneuve, only one of many glamorous talking heads testifying to their talents, says that famous faces (like her own) are rarely asked to do anything but be themselves; Pierre and Gilles find something inside that was imprisoned and then make it visible, while retaining the essential identity of the sitter.



Over and over again this is corroborated by one female or male diva after another, notably musician Marc Almond, numerous supermodels and the fabulous, expressive Nina Hagen.



There’s no question that sex is a large part of what the pictures offer. But as one of the sweet lads from their Bad Boys series of idealized hustlers says, “They have an erotic side, but it’s not a dirty side.” No; instead of the pornographic, they locate the holy, even while finding it in a beautiful pair of lips or pecs.



It’s a trip through the dance clubs and art museums of Paris, London and Berlin, plus an immersion into their daily lives, making art with attractive people in their fabulous home/studio compound. As one Bettina puts it: “These two are indispensable to leading an artistic life in Paris.”



The 1997 film itself is beautifully shot and fluidly edited. Director Mike Aho has the same confidence of everyone interviewed. It’s possible that he’s a little too close to his subjects to offer objectivity, yet that closeness helps us feel that Pierre and Gilles are not only kind, life-affirming talents, but that they inspire others to heights of self-expression and nobility of spirit.



This is one to tape and watch more than once – it’s that dense with texture, colour, images, ideas and, yes, love.





Pierre And Gilles: Love Stories is broadcast on Bravo at 7:30pm on Sun, May 30 and at 3am on Sun, Jun 6.