Unlike many contemporary artists whose work is based on theories of popular culture, Pierre et Gilles’ artistic achievement is deliberately fused with popular culture in the present tense. Beginning with their early celebrity portraits of the late 1970s (Iggy Pop, Yves Saint-Laurent), Pierre et Gilles have created a visual world in which artifice and reality are inseparable. Employing props, make-up, costumes, and lighting that emphasize the staged quality of their photographic sets, Pierre et Gilles pursue an ideal beauty in their extravagant, hand-painted photographs that systematically demolishes any distinction between kitsch and expressions of the sublime. Both the artists and their subjects seem to insist on the complete believability of their allegorical characters, at the same time as they revel in the evidence that everything in their photographs is an illusion. Pierre et Gilles’ roots in commercial illustration for magazine and record album covers have resulted in an extraordinarily powerful combination of celebrity culture and archetypal Christian and mythological iconography. The very perfection of the beautiful boys and glamorous, weeping women who populate their artifical paradise hints at the tragedy of doomed youth and fleeting innocence that becomes increasingly explicit in their later, darker work. Eros and Thanatos are Pierre et Gilles’ abiding themes, present from the start in their images of martyred saints, and coming increasingly to the fore in the sinister shadows and almost occult iconography of their latest pieces. This exquisitely produced book provides a new and insightful assessment of this unique, idyllic marriage of photography and painting by a leading contemporary art critic, examining the emergence of a gay aesthetic and a utopian popular culture in the first substantial overview of Pierre et Gilles’ career to include their latest, hitherto unpublished work.