Nowadays few would consider Oscar Wilde as a figure, historically and artistically speaking, outside the mainstream. Yet, in his final years during the Victorian era, the ubiquitous playwright, novelist, poet and all-round wit most certainly was. And that was because he was eventually imprisoned for homosexuality. Times have changed, of course – more than a century on from Wilde’s prime, he’s most of all recalled as the literary heavyweight he always was and forever will be, irrespective of his sexual identity. All the same, no doubt he’d have approved on an exhibition to be held at London’s Tate Britain arts venue this spring, given it celebrates lesbian, gay trans and queer (LGBTQ) greats in the arts field from before the UK’s ban on homosexuality was finally raised – 50 years ago in 1967.
Pulling together some truly beautiful and revelatory pieces from the likes of David Hockney, John Singer Sargent, Duncan Grant and Dora Carrington (as well as charting the life and career of Wilde, of course), ‘Queer British Art 1861-1967’ will not just showcase these figures’ work but also do so in context. That means it will inform visitors of how these artists dared to and thoroughly succeeded in expressing themselves and their views of the world around them (seriously, playfully, politically and intimately) in eras unsettled by their sexual identities – and, by so doing, helped to challenge and transform the broad assumptions of these eras.
Comprising everything from paintings to drawings and photographs to film, it’s a show that its curator Clare Barlow has been quoted in the British media as saying will go “to the core of a lot of debates in society today about how … our sexuality or gender identity relate to our self. It will offer a lot of different possible answers to that question.”
So, no question, should you be enjoying a short-break in the UK capital this spring and staying relatively nearby (at The Marble Arch By Montcalm London, perhaps?), then this exhibit would most certainly be an intriguing, thought-provoking and possibly beguiling way to spend an afternoon or evening. The Tate gallery is one of the Tate family of galleries (its famous sister venue in the capital being the Tate Modern). Located in the Pimlico district of Central London, it overlooks the River Thames and, having been founded by Sir Henry Tate (the Victorian sugar magnate), has hit the sweet spot of art lovers forever since, housing as it does the biggest collection of UK art from the 16th Century up to the 21st – so why not help it hit yours by giving this unique exhibition a visit this spring?
Location: Tate Britain SW1P 4RG
Exhibition dates: April 5th-October 1st 2017
Open: 10am-6pm daily