See Inside: French Duo Pierre et Gilles Celebrate 40 Years Of Love And Art

The pair’s work is documented year-by-year in a new book

At a launch party for Kenzo’s first boutique on Place de Victoires in Paris, Pierre Commoy and Gilles Blanchard met for the first time. A year later, in 1977, they became known as Pierre et Gilles. They’ve been inseparable for the 40 years since.

Pierre et Gilles: 40, published on 29 November, provides a year-by-year retrospective of the photographer and painter’s oeuvre. It explores how their art – stylised painted photographs – mixes celebrity and gay culture with themes of religion, mythology and beauty, with subjects including Madonna, Iggy Pop, Naomi Campbell and Mick Jagger.

Pierre Commoy was born in La Roche-sur-Yon, France in 1950. He studied photography at the École de la Photographie in Geneva and settled in Paris in 1972. He became a regular at Le Sept, a cosmopolitan nightclub whose luminaries included Grace Jones, David Bowie and Yves Saint Laurent. Through the connections he forged there, he went on to photograph for magazines including Interview, Dépêche Mode and Rock’n Folk.

His future partner was born three years later in Sainte-Adresse. He studied in the nearby city Le Havre, where he was admitted to the Fine Arts School in 1968, aged 15. As a student, Blanchard did not limit himself to painting, he also made collages that blended photographs – a forecast of his future work. Like Commoy, Blanchard also moved to Paris in 1972 and had little trouble blending in with the Parisian underground through his relationship with illustrator Phillippe Morillon, whose apartment was a frequent party spot – Blanchard encountered photographer Robert Mapplethorpe there.

After they met, Pierre et Gilles’ works first appeared in magazines, followed by their debut exhibition at Galerie Texbraun in 1979. In the 1980s, they worked for a selection of music artists, including Marc Almond and Serge Gainsbourg, and became inspired by religion and mythology after a couple of trips to India.

“We have always been attracted to Asian countries,” said Commoy in an interview with i-D, “where there is no hierarchy of taste and no distinction between good taste and bad. Religious and popular culture, the people, the colours, we can find it all in Asia.”

Over their 40 years together, Pierre and Gilles’s work has been exhibited in museums and galleries around the globe, and has also appeared on numerous magazine, newspaper, and album covers. In 1993, the artists received the Grand Prix de Photographie, the Chevalier des Arts et Lettres in 2012.

Pierre et Gilles: 40 is available in a trade edition and a limited art edition of 200 copies which includes a signed and numbered print, presented in a clamshell case.