Monday, 24 April 2017

Review of Queer British Art 1861-1967 at Tate Britain

Queer British Art 1861-1967
Tate Britain, London
5 April – 1 October 2017

“For me, to use the word ‘queer’ is a liberation; it was a word that frightened me, but no longer” – Derek Jarman

In a year when nearly all of London’s – nay, Britain’s – major (and even lesser) museums and galleries are putting on LGBTQI* related exhibitions to mark the 50th anniversary of the partial decriminalisation of sex between men in 1967, Tate Britain’s Queer British Art 1861-1967 is the biggest and boldest of the lot. What could have – and was being feared by many would – become an androcentric, homoerotic romp, is a well-curated, historically informative and aesthetically compelling exploration of the multifaceted interpretations of “queerness” in the century leading up to this milestone.

The self-declared remit of the exhibition’s curators is to explore “a wide range of sexualities and gender identities” – hence the choice of the word “queer”, rather than any combination of letters and asterisks, also influenced by the fact that, with ever-changing labels, many of those that we use today would not have been used, or recognised, by the artists and audiences in their own times. The starting point of the show – 1861 – was selected because it was the year the death penalty for sodomy was abolished (although it was still punishable by imprisonment) and the decades are traversed chronologically, thematically, and through the representation of artistic groups, such as the pre-Raphaelites and – synonymous with fluid sexuality – the Bloomsbury Group.

Read the full review here

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