ARTIST IN RESIDENCE: GILLIE & MARC

The New York-based artistic duo tells us about the inspiration behind their fantastical bronze sculptures, currently on display at The Royal Exchange

14 January, 2021

How did the two of you meet and start working together?

We first met on a photoshoot in Hong Kong. Gillie was a nurse from England, Marc was a boy from the ‘burbs’ of Melbourne. We knew in an instant that we were soulmates. We stayed up late into the night talking about everything and anything, discovering that we had so much in common, including a love for art and conservation. Seven days later we had run away to Nepal and were married in the foothills of Mount Everest. Since then we have been creating art as one.


How would you describe your work and your creative process?

Our mission statement is to create art for a better tomorrow. Tomorrow deserves a whole lot better. Our one simple, unifying mission is to fill the world with inspiring public art that spreads messages of love, equality, conservation and hope. We aim to inspire everyone to be more loving and conscious of their surroundings and the life it contains. We aim to create a community that passionately works for change and optimism today so we can all live in a much better world tomorrow. 

For over three decades we have been making public art to promote conservation, equality, and love, raising global awareness and generating much-needed funds for charities across the world. Through collaboration with both individuals and organisations, we work to create art that makes a difference and affects change. Whether it be for humans, animals, or the environment, our art evokes the need for love and protection of all life. We call on everyone to join us to change things.

Public art can make a place brighter and more vibrant, increasing the happiness of the public


What makes you work well together as a team?

It’s lots of fun working with your partner. We give each other so much inspiration. We feel much more creative when we’re working together, bouncing ideas off one another to create something truly magical. It also means we can be completely open and honest, never feeling shy about sharing an idea or trying something new because we are always honest, supportive, and keen to experiment.


What inspires your work?

The best inspirations for our work are all around us. We love observing this stunning world we live in, from the diversity of the wild to the vibrant streets of the cities. We take these everyday wonders and turn them into art, whether it’s a realistic sculpture from our drawings of real elephants in Kenya or a fantastical painting of our hybrid lovers, Rabbitwoman and Dogman, zipping through the streets of Rome on a Vespa. Ultimately, the things that inspire our work the most are the ideas of love, compassion, and adventure.  The main material we use for all our public sculptures is bronze.


Why do you think making art accessible to all is important?

It’s incredibly important to make art for everyone. Art should never just be for the elite, hidden away in galleries and private collections. Art has the power to bring joy, contemplation, introspection, start conversations, and tell a shared story. Public art can make a place brighter and more vibrant, increasing the happiness of the public. It can tell the story of the local people, giving a sense of community and history. And it can also change perspectives, encouraging people to think and discuss important topics that can change the world. We need to bring art out onto the streets for all to enjoy and make a real change.


Are there any specific responses you are aiming to elicit with your work?

The main response we hope to get from all of our work is love. We truly believe that the only way to make people care about anything is if they have an emotional connection to it. Whether the purpose of the sculpture is for conservation, gender equality, or to encourage acceptance of others, the underlying motivating factor is always love.

That is why all of our work is interactive. We encourage people to touch and get up close and personal so they can form a tangible bond. People don’t care about something they’ve never experienced, so we are giving them a public sculpture experience to spark the seeds of love, creating new conservationists and advocates.


Can you tell me about other significant places around the world, where your art has been displayed, and what it feels like to have your art on show in a public space?

We have been incredibly honoured to have our art displayed in some of the most amazing locations in the world, from NYC to Shanghai. Our sculpture ‘The Last Three’ – the largest rhino sculpture in the world for the final three white rhinos left on Earth – was launched in Times Square in NYC. More recently we launched our herd of baby elephants, called ‘The Orphans’, in London’s Marble Arch. The start of our global movement to balance the representation of statues for women was kicked off on the iconic Avenue of the Americas in NYC. And we have had many sculptures displayed in public spaces in Melbourne and Sydney.

It is so important to have our work displayed in these iconic public spaces where thousands of people pass every day. It allows passing on the message we are trying to share as far and wide as possible, with hundreds of people at least glimpsing the statue as they walk past. Even these smallest of interactions plant those ideas in their minds and we feel so privileged to have the opportunity to spread such important seeds of conservation and equality with so many people.


How do people tend to respond to your sculptures?

We have been overwhelmed by the incredible responses we have had with our sculptures. We see hundreds and thousands of people sharing pictures of themselves interacting with our sculptures on social media, sitting in the giant hand of the gorilla King Nyani or hugging an orphaned elephant calf. We have received hundreds of thousands of dollars’ worth of donations to the charities we have partnered with on the sculptures, helping to support the animals of whose stories we have shared. People have taken the idea of an interactive sculpture and run with it, becoming involved in the cause and bringing their friends and family to be a part of it too. It is such a wonderful and humbling experience to see the joy and passion of the public and know that our sculptures are making a real difference.


What is the story behind your ‘Paparazzi Dogs’ sculptures, currently in residence at The Royal Exchange?

It’s been 10 years since we first launched our beloved paparazzi dogs in Melbourne. Originally inspired by the words of Andy Warhol, ‘Everyone will be famous for 15 minutes’, the pap dogs were created to give everyone their chance in the spotlight, to make everyone the celebrity they want to be. Everyone is a star and everyone should be seen that way. The dogs have spent the past decade giving the limelight to people across the world.

They have been loved by the world, from Snoop Dogg to presidents, with 20 million people having taken their photo with them. The pap dogs are a lot of fun and we love seeing pictures of people having their photo ‘taken’ by them. As photographers themselves, the pap dogs have now had millions of photos taken of them, which we think is a wonderful juxtaposition. On their journey to The Royal Exchange, the pap dogs have sniffed out the rich and famous in Melbourne’s Federation Square, the Jing’an Sculpture Park in Shanghai, and New York’s Greenwich Village and the Rockefeller Center. The pack has travelled all over the world, and are now scattered across 20 places, housed in various collections and galleries.


What are your hopes for the new year?

As we are sure everyone agrees, we hope that the situation with Covid will begin to calm. It has been a very trying time but we have much hope for the future. We feel humanity has learned many important things from this pandemic, of the importance of community, sustainability, and adaptability. We hope that 2021 will be the year of reconnection with nature and rejuvenation of the Earth. 

The Paparazzi Dogs by Gillie and Marc will be in residence at The Royal Exchange main entrance until July 2021. To discover more about Gillie & Marc’s artworks, visit gillieandmarc.com

Tag us in your images of the Paparazzi Dogs and we’ll repost our favourite shots on our Instagram Stories: @theroyalexchange #theroyalexchange