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Tate Britain will host an exhibition purely dedicated to LGBTQ+ art


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To mark the 50th anniversary of the partial decriminalisation of male homosexuality in England and Wales, Tate Britain will host an exhibition dedicated purely to queer British art.

Sappho and Erinna in a Garden at Mytilene by Simeon Solomon

The exhibition will be the first of its kind and will unveil material that relates to LGBTQ identities and will illustrate the ways in which sexuality became publically defined over time.

It will seek to show how the established views of sexuality and gender were challenged. The work varies from the intensely personal to works that spoke to a broader audience in order to forge a sense of community.

Tate will showcase work from 1861 to 1967. The work will vary from political to comedic, explicit and domestic, and will look at shifts in equality, sexuality and gender. It will present work from the abolition of the death penalty for sodomy in 1861 to the passing of the Sexual Offences Act in 1967.

The works submitted will be from those with diverse sexualities and identities in a time when LGBTQ and the terms under it were unrecognised, and in some cases illegal.

Works featured will include art from major figures such as Francis Bacon, Keith Vaughan, Evelyn de Morgan, Gluck, Glyn Philpot, Claude Cahun and Cecil Beaton.

Examples of the work on display includes Simeon Solomon’s Sappho and Erinna in a Garden at Mytilene (1864, pictured above), which shows covert images of same-sex desire, and later work, including David Hockney’s Going to be a Queen for Tonight, created in 1960 and showing open appreciation of gay culture.

Photographs from British theatre will also be on display. Performers such as Beatrix Lehmann, Berto Parsuka and Robert Helpmann will be featured in images by Angus McBean, who was jailed for being gay in 1942. Music Hall performers such as Vesta Tilley will also be featured. Vesta was one of the most famous male impersonators of the era and she had a huge lesbian following.

A final highlight of the exhibition will be a focus on the Bloomsbury set and their contemporaries. This artistic group were famous for their nonconformist and relaxed attitude to sexuality. The showing will include scenes of domestic settings where the artists lived with their partners, paintings of lovers and commissions by Duncan Grant and Ethel Walker.

The exhibition will run at the Tate Britain from 5 April – 1 October 2017.

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