Queer Exhibitions/Queer Curating


Birgit Bosold, Schwules Museum*, Berlin
Beyond Same-Same: Intersectional Queer-Feminist Agenda-Setting Strategies at Schwules Museum*

Founded in 1985 as an institution focused on the history of male homosexuality, Schwules Museum* has over thirty years of experience in "queer" exhibiting. The museum began with explorations into said history presenting stories obscured in mainstream museums. Thus, it was a type of "Heimatmuseum" for queer folks by salvaging and displaying this heritage to empower queer communities and individuals. As a descendant of the radical queer political activism of the 1970s, the museum tried to penetrate the general public perception by highlighting the important social and political contributions of gay culture and activism in order to fight for acceptance and equal rights. While the agenda of Schwules Museum* has changed over time it retained the fundamental ideas at its core. To illustrate how the rebellious heritage of the museum has evolved with the development of contemporary discourses my presentation will showcase and discuss current projects. We see our work as a general political statement. Furthermore our projects are designed to intervene in current controversal topics in our communities while at the same time disturbing the conventions of mainstream museums.

Dr. Birgit Bosold has been a member of the management board at Schwules Museum*, Berlin’s Gay Museum, – and its first female member – since 2006. In this role she is responsible for the organization’s finances and has played an important part in changing the Museum’s strategic focus. Moreover, she curated the exhibition Gender-Gap (2011), a show featuring artistic positions on the FIFA Women’s World Cup. She has also designed exhibitions outlining the work of various photographers – Petra Gall, whose extensive archive with its significance for contemporary history she has succeeded in acquiring for Schwules Museum* (2012), Zanele Muholi, as part of a cooperation agreement with Amnesty International, and Krista Beinstein (2016). Bosold was also project manager and co-curator of the exhibition “Homosexualität_en” initiated by Schwules Museum* in collaboration with Deutsches Historisches Museum. In 2016 she was awarded the “Kompassnadel” for her involvement by Schwules Netzwerk NRW, the State of North Rhine-Westphalia’s self-help network for gays.
Bosold actually comes from the field of private banking; after completing her studies and receiving a doctorate in literature she spent many years with various renowned banks and currently works as a freelance consultant in the field of portfolio management, advising companies, foundations and private individuals. She is also a writer and lecturer in her specialist field.

Thom Collins
Notes from the Field

In the face of a resurgent political right in the US, sexuality-themed museum exhibitions will be even more marginal than they already were. As one of the few openly queer museum directors in the USA, I will describe the step by step process of how to select and make queer exhibitions, get them past the Museum’s Board of Directors, publicize them, and handle any resulting controversy.

Thom Collins is the Executive Director and President of the Barnes Foundation. An innovative educator, accomplished art historian, administrator and author, Mr. Collins, a Philadelphia native, has more than 20 years of experience at some of America’s top arts institutions. Collins previously served as Director of the Pérez Art Museum Miami, Florida (PAMM) for five years, where he oversaw construction of the new Herzog & de Meuron-designed building located in downtown Miami, which opened to great acclaim in December 2013. Prior to joining PAMM, Mr. Collins had been Director of the Neuberger Museum of Art in Purchase, New York, for five years; Director of the Contemporary Museum in Baltimore, Maryland (2003–2005); Chief Curator at the Contemporary Arts Center in Cincinnati, Ohio (2000-2003); Associate Curator at the Henry Art Gallery in Seattle, Washington (1998-2000); and Newhall Curatorial Fellow at the Museum of Modern Art in New York (1994-1997).
Mr. Collins earned his MA in Art History from Northwestern University and his BA with honors in Art History and the History of Religion from Swarthmore College. He currently holds memberships in the Association of Art Museum Directors, the Association of Art Museum Curators, and the College Art Association.

Julia Friedrich
Das Achte Feld. In memory of Frank Wagner.

In summer 2006 the exhibition Das Achte Feld. Geschlechter, Leben und Begehren in der Kunst seit 1960 took place at Museum Ludwig. In 2004, curating the exhibition was entrusted by the museum’s director Kasper König to a freelance curator, Frank Wagner (1958–2016), who had been working in this field since the late 1980s, mostly in the realm of exhibitions organized for Berliner Kunstverein ngbk. With more than 80 artists participating – their works were presented in 10 thematic areas – the exhibition occupied about one third of the museum’s available exhibition space. It focused on marginalized positions in Queer Art, relating them to the museum’s collection. The architecture of Berlin-based artist Eran Schaerf, which made no attempt to either approach the works or to appropriate them and which remained recognizable as a stage of its own, underscored the exhibition’s political relevance and prevented the topic from simply being confined to a museum world. – In my presentation I shall report on the history of the exhibition’s genesis, an exhibition that I was involved in as a trainee at Museum Ludwig. The objective was to use photos of the installation to gain insights into Wagner’s aims as a curator and to focus on the role of the exhibition architecture.

Julia Friedrich is head of Museum Ludwig’s Prints Collection. Friedrich studied Art History and Jewish Studies in Berlin, Potsdam and Venice. She completed a doctorate in 2008 on Grau ohne Grund. Gerhard Richters Monochromien als Herausforderung der künstlerischen Avantgarde. As a trainee at Museum Ludwig she worked on the exhibition Das Achte Feld with Kasper König and Frank Wagner and later curated exhibitions on such artists as Maria Lassnig, Vija Celmins, Jo Baer, Andrea Büttner and Otto Freundlich.

Amelia Jones
Curating the Queer Archive

Inspired by my current work on Ron Athey’s personal archive and performance career, this paper will begin and end with inspirational queer shows—Lawrence Rinder and Nayland Blake’s In a Different Light: Visual Culture, Sexual Identity, Queer Practice, at the Berkeley Art Museum in 1995, and Jonathan Katz’s Art AIDS America, Alphawood Gallery, Chicago, 2017—in order to frame an inquiry into the relationship between queer archives and queer exhibitions. What kinds of works make a compelling queer exhibition? What kinds of queer communities are possibly only in archives? How do queer archives, such as Ron Athey’s personal archive, inform queer curating?

Amelia Jones is Robert A. Day Professor in Art and Design and Vice-Dean of Critical Studies at the Roski School of Art and Design at University of Southern California. A curator and theorist and historian of art and performance, her recent publications include Perform Repeat Record: Live Art in History (2012), co-edited with Adrian Heathfield, a single authored book Seeing Differently: A History and Theory of Identification and the Visual Arts (2012), the edited volume Sexuality (2014), and, co-edited with Erin Silver, Otherwise: Imagining Queer Feminist Art Histories (2016). Her exhibition Material Traces: Time and the Gesture in Contemporary Art took place in 2013 in Montreal, as did the event Trans-Montréal (Performance Studies International, 2015). Live Artists Live took place at USC in 2016.  The latter two events included performances and lectures.  Her edited special issue of Performance Research entitled "On Trans/Performance" was published in October 2016.

Photo: Douglas Levere

Jonathan D. Katz
Money Talks: Or Why is the United States so Backwards

This talk centers on the differences between publicly and privately supported museums. While it might seem logical to assume that private museums are more insulated from political controversy than public ones, Katz will illustrate that in fact the opposite is true, which is why queer exhibitions in the US, where a privately funded museum model predominates, are still comparatively rare. In this talk, Katz analyzes why and how private money is such a drag on the development of queer exhibitions in American museums.

Jonathan D. Katz is a pioneering figure in the development of a queer art history in the US. He directs the doctoral program in Visual Studies at the University at Buffalo and curated Hide/Seek: Difference and Desire in American Portraiture, the first queer art exhibition ever mounted at a major US museum, which opened at the Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery, then traveled to The Brooklyn and Tacoma Museums, winning the Best National Museum Exhibition award from the International Association of Art Critics and the best LGBT non-fiction book award from the American Library Association. His current major exhibition, entitled Art AIDS America, opened at the Tacoma Art Museum, and then traveled to Atlanta, New York and Chicago, accompanied by a substantial new book. Katz was the first full-time American academic to be tenured in queer studies and also founded and chaired Yale University's Lesbian and Gay Studies Program, the first in the Ivy League. He is president emeritus of the Leslie Lohman Museum of Gay and Lesbian Art in New York City, where he has curated numerous exhibitions.

Simon Martin
Mediating Queerness

In the past decade there have been a number of reappraisals in British museums of the work of twentieth-century queer British artists. Several of these exhibitions have been held in the – perhaps unlikely – setting of Pallant House Gallery in Chichester (a cathedral city in Southern England, with no sizeable LGBTIQ community, although proximity to audiences in Brighton and London). These have included the first museum exhibition for 25 years of Edward Burra (1905-1976) in 2011, centenary exhibitions of Keith Vaughan (1912-1977) and Robin Ironside (1912-1965) in 2012, Christopher Wood (1901-1930), an exploration of a collection formed by four gay collectors in the 20th century known as the Radev Collection (2011-12), as well as installations by contemporary artists by Michael Petry (b.1960), Lothar Götz (b.1963) and Pablo Bronstein (b.1977), and a forthcoming exhibition of the artist John Minton (1917-1957), timed to mark both the artist’s centenary and the 50th anniversary of the legalisation of male homosexuality in England and Wales. In addition the museum works closely with a male couple to form a contemporary print collection. These exhibitions have not pursued an overtly political agenda, but have not avoided directly addressing the sexuality of their subjects and its impact on the artists’ works, aiming to engage a mainstream audience in understanding the life and work of the artists without euphemisms. This paper considers these exhibitions in the context of other recent exhibitions such as Queer British Art at Tate Britain, and the forthcoming Gluck retrospective at Brighton Museum and Art Gallery and how the approach of these exhibitions reflect wider mainstream liberal attitudes such as legalisation of gay marriage in the UK.

Simon Martin is Director of Pallant House Gallery. He is a Trustee of Charleston (the Sussex home of the Bloomsbury artists Duncan Grant and Vanessa Bell) and HOUSE, and has written extensively on Modern British Art.

Fiona McGovern
Queer Art and Culture on Display. Reflections on Exhibition History, its Impact and Problems

This talk will look at the display of queer art and culture within an exhibition context, its history, impact and problems. Who were the key figures who started to put on shows by lesbian, gay, or transsexual artists? And what did it imply for the participating artists, the institution, and last but not least the curator him/herself? In how far has the focus of shows dedicated to queer art and/or culture been changing since the beginning of the liberation movement, and in how far do these shows reflect current states of feminist and queer discourse and theory? And, last but not least, in how far do these exhibitions also have an impact on how art history is written or the other way around?
I will reflect on these questions by examining some key examples from the early 1970s till today, among them A Lesbian Show curated by Harmony Hammond in 1978 at 112 Greene Street Workshop, and Extended Sensibilities. Homosexual Presence in Contemporary Art curated by Daniel J. Cameron at the New  Museum in 1982. Both of them meant publically coming out for most of the participating artists, who consequently had to fear a backlash on their career. More recent examples include Das achte Feld at Museum Ludwig in Cologne in 2006, which clearly tried to reach a wider audience. Similar to all female shows, these examples also bare the danger of putting artists into the queer box, and thereby narrow down the reading of their work. It is therefore also to be critically investigated in how far minorities within the lgbtqi community (like lesbians with aids and queer people of colour) were represented in shows like these, and in how far gender mainstreaming in the curatorial field bears the danger of a loss or even sell out of the community.

Fiona McGovern is an art historian, writer, and curator based in Berlin. Last year she has published her first monograph Die Kunst zu zeigen. Künstlerische Ausstellungsdisplays bei Joseph Beuys, Martin Kippenberger, Mike Kelley und Manfred Pernice (transcript 2016). Since then she has more extensively focused on her other main fields of interest, art and identity politics and the intersections of art and music since the 1960s. She has been teaching on these subjects at various universities and art schools in Germany and Austria. Fiona McGovern is also the co-editor of Assign & Arrange. Methodologies of Presentation in Art and Dance (Sternberg 2014), and has frequently contributed to magazines like Artforum, Texte zur Kunst, and frieze d/e. Since July 2016 she is curating the screening series Sounding Images at Kunsthaus Acud in Berlin, which focuses on the interrelation of moving images and sound, and frequently involves guests from various backgrounds.

Maura Reilly
Challenging Heterocentrism and Lesbo-/Homo-phobia: A History of LGBTQ exhibitions in the U.S.

In this talk, I will trace the historiography of LGBTQ exhibitions in the U.S. from the late 1970s to the present, beginning with A Lesbian Show (Artists Space, New York, 1978), curated by Harmony Hammond, and ending with Art AIDS America (multiple U.S. venues, 2015-17), curated by Jonathan Katz and Rock Hushka. Some key issues explored will include the concept of an artistic “sensibility” specific to sexual orientation, the curatorial “outing” of closeted artists or objects, the prevalence of lesbo-and trans-phobia, and the importance of museological interventions. 

Maura Reilly (PhD, New York University) is Executive Director of the National Academy Museum & School in New York. She is the Founding Curator of the Sackler Center for Feminist Art at the Brooklyn Museum, the first exhibition and public programming space in the U.S. devoted exclusively to feminist art, where she organized multiple acclaimed exhibitions, including the permanent installation of Judy Chicago's Dinner Party. Her most recent publications include Curatorial Activism (Thames & Hudson, 2017) and Women Artists: The Linda Nochlin Reader (Thames & Hudson, 2015). In 2016, she was voted one of the 50 most influential People in the art world by both Blouin Art Info and Art & Auction.