A major new exhibition at Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery showcases over 80 modern and contemporary artworks by internationally renowned artists, who explore themes of sexuality, gender and identity in art.
Running until Sunday 15th April 2018, Coming Out: Sexuality, Gender & Identity, marks 50 years since the partial decriminalisation of male homosexual acts was passed in England and Wales (1967 Sexual Offences Act).
Bringing artworks of international significance to Birmingham, the majority of which have been borrowed from the Arts Council Collection, the exhibition includes iconic pieces by Andy Warhol, Grayson Perry, Sarah Lucas and Gillian Wearing. Artworks span the 1950s to the present day, reflecting artist’s different experiences pre and post the passing of the 1967 Act.
The exhibition was officially opened on Saturday 2nd December by comedian Joe Lycett. The launch event, held in partnership with SHOUT Festival of Queer Arts and Culture, saw series of specially commissioned performances and activities taking place to celebrate the opening.
Coming Out was conceived by National Museums Liverpool and the exhibition has been re-presented with key additional works to offer differing perspectives on the exhibition’s central themes.
Significant new loans have been added to the Birmingham show, including prints by Margaret Harrison and photography by renowned Birmingham-based artist Vanley Burke. These join paintings by Derek Jarman, photography by Sunil Gupta and Zanale Muholi and films by Steve McQueen and Isaac Julien.
Iconic artworks by Francis Bacon, Keith Vaughan, John Stezaker and Grayson Perry from Birmingham’s own collection, also add further dialogue to the consideration of sexuality, gender and identity today.
Two works by Turner-prize winning artist Grayson Perry are presented together for the first time – Claire’s Coming Out Dress (2000), and his ceramic pot Who Am I?(1996). Both artworks provide an important insight into Grayson’s exploration of his own identity. From the coded symbols and personal dialogue in his ceramic pot of 1996, to the declaration his transvestite public persona, Claire, in the intricately designed party dress from 2000, which he wore to mark his emergence as a transvestite to the art world.
Coming Out continues with a strong representation of female artists, including notable works from Sarah Lucas. Lucas’ works explore her identity as a woman and sharply critique gendered stereotypes. Two of her satirical and striking sculptures, for which she is best known, feature alongside her iconic Self-Portrait Series (1990-98).
Works by Birmingham-based photographer Vanley Burke are on display for the first time as part of the exhibition. The three photographic prints illustrate a Pride Demonstration in Wolverhampton in 1988 where protesters were challenging the Government’s now repealed Section 28 Act, which stated that a local authority should not intentionally promote homosexuality in publishing or teaching.
A gallery trail accompanies the main exhibition and takes visitors on an insightful journey of 25 artworks presented in nine of Birmingham’s fine art collection galleries. The trail brings the show’s themes to life in new settings and raises awareness of the visibility of LGBT+ stories in museum collections.
Lisa Beauchamp, Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art Birmingham Museums Trust, said: “Coming Out marks a major moment for Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery as we highlight the importance of LGBT+ history on contemporary art in this significant anniversary year.
“In devising Birmingham’s exhibition we have been fortunate enough to secure exciting new loans, which make this a must-see exhibition for those who have already enjoyed Liverpool’s show and for those who will be completely new to it.”
Jill Constantine, Head of Arts Council Collection: “I’m delighted that this important show will travel to Birmingham and the new additions will further enrich the exhibition and allow us to see and celebrate the huge contribution to the visual arts made by the LGBTQ+ communities.”
Accompanying the exhibition is an innovative learning and engagement programme, facilitated by Arts Council Collection National Partnership, in a dedicated space called FORUM. The events and activities have been developed by working in partnership with local artists and community groups.
Events include Life Drawing with a Drag Queen, a Polari language class with artist Jez Dolan and a Drag King Makeover session. More details here birminghammuseums.org.uk/blog/posts/coming-out-events
Coming Out is a touring exhibition conceived by National Museums Liverpool, in partnership with Birmingham Museums Trust as part of the Arts Council Collection National Partners Programme 2016 –19. The exhibition follows several years of research by National Museums Liverpool which reveals concealed LGBT+ histories.
Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery is an Arts Council Collection National Partner. The Arts Council Collection is managed by Southbank Centre, London on behalf of Arts Council England.
For more details visit birminghammuseums.org.uk/bmag/whats-on/coming-out-sexuality-gender-and-identity