Queer Exhibitions/Queer Curating

A Cross-Cultural Symposium

May 19 and 20, 2017

By the term “queer exhibition”, do we signify an openness to auditioning queer biography on the part of individual artists, or rather an acknowledgement of queer themes in their work or instead is it reserved for full scale exhibitions that make sexual difference their governing theoretical or socio-historical frame?

Featuring a mix of international curators, museum directors and academics, this international symposium organized by the Museum Folkwang in Essen and the Ruhr University Bochum looks into the history of queer exhibitions, under what conditions they are set up and how they are discussed and received. It equally addresses cultural workers, artists, curators, academics and students.

The development of sexuality themed art museum exhibitions is a relatively recent phenomenon, traceable only to the early 1980s. Even today, queer exhibitions are quite rare—there have been a total of under 50 across the world—and in many nations they are still contentious.

The advent of queer exhibitions tracks socio-political advances in queer civil rights, and as such is a function of regional and national politics. But even a cursory look at exhibition histories reveals that such macro phenomena as queer civil rights are a necessary, but not sufficient condition for the making of queer museum shows. They are equally dependent on a range of factors from the style of art in question to its periodization, market valuation, funding stream, patronage class, scholarship, activist personalities and the museum’s own culture and structure. In addition contemporary critical fashions, theoretical paradigms and the perceived beliefs and wishes of the artists in question all govern the prospect of queer exhibitions as well. In short, with the emergence of a queer curating we have a delimited and highly specific lens through which to examine the many diverging forces that animate and structure the contemporary museum exhibition.

Moreover, unlike most traditional minority issues, where representation and demographics are the key terms of contestation, in the art world, queer presence is hardly either marginal or something new. In fact, queer artists crowd our museums, and queer staff are central to the provision of modern exhibitions. The question here, in short, isn’t about literal presence, it’s about discursive presence, about how often queerness is named, defined or referenced.

And it is therefore in terms of discourse that this conference will frame its issues, its histories and its proposed solutions.

Birgit Bosold, Member Board of Directors, Schwules Museum*, Berlin
Thom Collins, Director of the Barnes Foundation, Philadelphia
Julia Friedrich, Curator at the Museum Ludwig, Cologne
Amelia Jones, Art historian and Curator, University of Southern California
Jonathan Katz, Art historian, University at Buffalo, and Independent curator
Simon Martin, Director of the Pallant House Gallery, Chichester
Fiona McGovern, Art historian, Berlin
Maura Reilly, Executive Director of the National Academy Museum & School, New York


Location: Museum Folkwang, Essen, Karl Ernst Osthaus-Saal

Please find the podcasts of both days' talks here...


Friday, 19th May

17.00 Welcome note: Isabel Hufschmidt, Museum Folkwang
17.15-18.45 Panel discussion with Jonathan Katz, Änne Söll, Thom Collins, Fiona McGovern, Dorian Wood


Karl Ernst Osthaus-Saal, Museum Folkwang, Essen
Fee: € 12 / Reduced: € 7 / Free attendance for conference participants and members of Kunstring Folkwang

Saturday, 20th May

8.45 Registration
9.15 Welcome note: Isabel Hufschmidt, Museum Folkwang
9.30-10.00 Introduction: Jonathan Katz, Änne Söll

Panel 1: Histories
10.00-10.30 Fiona McGovern, Queer Art and Culture on Display. Reflections on Exhibition History, its Impact and Problems
10.30-11.00 Maura Reilly, Challenging Heterocentrism and Lesbo-/Homo-phobia: A History of LGBTQ Exhibitions in the U.S.

11.00-11.30 Coffee break

Panel 2: Regions
11.30-12.00 Birgit Bosold, Beyond Same Same - Agenda Setting in Current Programming Strategies of Schwules Museum*
12.00-12.30 Simon Martin, Mediating Queerness: Recent Exhibitions of Modern British Art

12.30-14.00 Lunch

Panel 3: Negotiations
14.00-14.30 Julia Friedrich, Das Achte Feld. In Erinnerung an Frank Wagner. / The Eighth Square. In remembrance of Frank Wagner.
14.30-15.00 Thom Collins, Notes from the Field

15.00-15.30 Coffee break

Panel 4: Terms and Conditions
15.30-16.00 Jonathan Katz, Money Talks: Or Why is the United States so Backwards
16.00-16.30 Amelia Jones, Curating and the Queer Archive
16.30-17.15 Roundtable discussion; Special Guest: Clare Barlow, Curator Tate Britain


Chaired by Jonathan Katz, Änne Söll and Isabel Hufschmidt

Abstracts will be online soon at

For inquiries, please contact:

A cooperation of Museum Folkwang, Essen, with Ruhr-Universität Bochum

Organized by Jonathan Katz, University at Buffalo, Marie-Jahoda-Gastprofessur der Ruhr-Universität Bochum / Änne Söll, Kunstgeschichtliches Institut der Ruhr-Universität Bochum / Isabel Hufschmidt, Museum Folkwang, Essen

Sponsored by Kunstring Folkwang e. V., Verein der Freunde des Museum Folkwang / Netzwerk Frauen- und Geschlechterforschung NRW


Dorian Wood, 2015
Photo: San Raquel