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Coming Out: The Walker prepares to reveal concealed LGBT+ art histories

17 May 2017 by Felicity

Untitled, 1981, Linder © the artist and courtesy Stuart Shave I Modern Art, London

Today is the International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphonbia (IDAHOT 2017); a worldwide celebration of sexual and gender diversities. We thought we’d mark this landmark day, now celebrated in more than 130 countries, by sharing details of our upcoming exhibition, Coming Out: Sexuality, Gender and Identity.

Coming Out, which will open at the Walker Art Gallery on 28 July, will reveal previously overlooked LGBT+ art histories and institutional blind spots, through a really exciting selection of artworks.

The opening will mark 50 years since the partial decriminalisation of male homosexual acts was passed in England and Wales (1967 Sexual Offences Act), on 27 July 1967. From David Hockney and Steve McQueen to Anya Gallaccio and Sarah Lucas, the artists represented have used their work to explore sexuality and gender identity since 1967, after the passing of the Act. 

Coming Out will reveal the findings of more than two years of research by the Walker into LGBT+ history and visual culture, exploring works of art within the Arts Council Collection as well as our own collection. New acquisitions by artists including John Walter and Marvin Gaye Chetwynd also feature, recently acquired through Art Fund’s New Collecting Awards.

As Charlotte Keenan, Curator of British Art at National Museums Liverpool, says: “Coming Out will be one of the most important exhibitions in the Walker’s history. Showcasing the results of several years of research, it will make visible the themes of sexuality, gender identity and queerness that lie at the heart of some of Britain’s most significant contemporary works.

“The exhibition also forms part of an even greater ambition for us; to make queer British art and its importance to art history permanently visible within our galleries. Visitors can expect to see new interpretation within our permanent displays, as well as some exciting new acquisitions as we look to show – through our own collections – that LGBT+ history is everybody’s history.”

Works on display in Coming Out include feminist art by Margaret Harrison and iconic and provocative works by Linder and Sarah Lucas. Arresting photography by Zanele Muholi, Sunil Gupta, Maud Sulter and Wolfgang Tillmans feature, along with performances pieces and a number of audio-visual works by artists including Isaac Julien, Hilary Lloyd and James Richards.

Pauline Boudry and Renate Lorenz’s I Want (2015) is also included as a new acquisition through Art Fund’s New Collecting Award scheme. This film installation, featuring artist Sharon Hayes, is based on a script that plagiarises from the texts of punk poet Kathy Acker as well as the chats and addresses of whistle-blower Chelsea Manning – who was released from prison today.

A striking installation piece by Anya Gallaccio also features, titled Can Love Remember the Question and the Answer? (2003). The work comprises a pair of mahogany doors, each featuring a windowpane. Each time the installation is displayed, 60 gerbera flowers are inserted within the panes. During the run of the exhibition, the gerberas will begin to decompose.

Central to the exhibition will be a free programme of events and performances. Organised in partnership with artists, activists and communities, they will take place in FORUM; a designated room at the heart of the exhibition. The events are designed to encourage conversations around topics that have been ignored by institutions in the past, and to look towards the future. Keep an eye on our website for details!

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