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Art & Queer Culture

Art & Queer Culture

Published to coincide with the 50th Anniversary of the Stonewall Riots in June 1969, Phaidon is releasing a revised and updated edition of their acclaimed historical survey of queer art and culture by Catherine Lord and Richard Meyer.

Essays by the authors delve into the oft hidden worlds of queer culture allowing us a window into them and how it has changed and evolved over time. Through colour images and notes on the works of some 250 artists, the book explores the queer art and art of queer artists that this historically underground culture has given rise to over the past 130 years. Some of the artists are known to all – the likes of Francis Bacon – while others are less known underground artist. This juxtaposition creates both a fascinating mix of work and approaches, and draws out the often hidden and subversive nature of queer art that came from necessity thanks to the persecution of the LGBTQ+ people through history and still in many places today.

J.S.Sargent, Reclining Nude Male Model,1900, 48 × 56 cm, watercolour and pencil on paper, Collection, National Museums and Galleries of Wales. Picture credit: akg-images J.S.Sargent / Reclining Nude Male Model Sargent, John Singer 1856-1925. ‘Reclining Nude Male Model’ 1890s. Watercolour and pencil on paper, 48.4 x 54.7 cm. Cardiff, National Museum of Wales.

Art & Queer Culture delves into its subject tracing queer art through history chronologically across 8 chapters (A through H) each exploring the dominant queer issue or movement of the time, from ‘Thresholds (1885-1909)’ to the street protests of the late ’60s and the ‘70s and on. This new edition brings the last edition fully up to date with the inclusion of over 30 new artists, and Lord and Meyer have included a new chapter (H) entitled Queer & Now. New contributors give voice to the gay, lesbian, queer and trans communities of today, reflecting the vibrancy of the work by contemporary queer artists over the past decade and the ever more visible and exciting space being developed by gender nonconforming artists.

Crawford Barton, A Castro Street Scene, 1977, black and white photograph. Picture credit: The Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender Historical Society (GLBTHS), San Francisco
Printed by the Fine Art Department at The Icon; digital c-print on Kodak Endura Matte paper, embedded profile queue.

Whether it’s painting, prints or photography (that’s often graphic), the one thing that unites all the works in Art & Queer Culture, is a sense of liberty and freedom even when the artist’s own freedom wasn’t guaranteed. There is a joy conveyed through hidden, satyrical or juxtaposing messaging, the broad smiles of cross dressers being photographed as they climb out of a police van, the quite introspective tender repose of a naked figure captured in private with no judgment from the artist or others in the room as they are free to be who they are. As the art moves into the ‘60s and ’70s it becomes increasingly political and sexually explicit, but that liberty and joy is still there even as they dive further into the movements of the day. Queer art has continued in this vain to the modern day as its breadth has expanded. More and more artists of all genders and identities from all cultures have started to express themselves, finding an ever more open and interested audience even as their political struggle continues in many parts of the world.

Art & Queer Culture is a superb book, not only does it provide a fascinating insight into a genre that was for so long hidden or overlooked, but the unique culture that created it. The importance of this book is as much in it’s existence as it is due to it’s contents. It’s an insight into a history and art that too many of us are unaware of, even as members of the LGBT community.

Art & Queer Culture

By Catherine Lord and Richard Meyer
Published by Phaidon
ISBN: 9780714878348
Available here