Same-sex love and desire and gender diversity are integral to human experience. The way they have been expressed culturally has varied widely globally and over time. Based upon Professor Richard Parkinson’s award-winning book, ‘A Little Gay History’, this exhibition offers glimpses into LGBTQ experience through the British Museum’s collection.
Ranging chronologically from ancient history to the present day, the display challenges us to question our assumptions about the past. As well as famous figures like the poet Sappho, and the Roman emperor Hadrian and his beautiful lover Antinous, the display also reflects the experiences and lives of those whose names are lost to us, what the novelist E.M. Forster memorably described as a
‘…great unrecorded history.’
Modern and contemporary works by artists such Augusta Kaiser (1895-1932), Bhupen Khakar (1934-2003), David McDiarmid (1952-95) and Otsuka Takashi (b.1948) reflect more recent perspectives. David Hockney’s Fourteen Poems from CP Cavafy etchings were produced and published shortly before the passing of the Sexual Offences Act in July 1967 which partially decriminalised homosexuality in England and Wales. A selection of LGBTQ campaign badges from the 1970s to the present day highlight later (and ongoing) campaigns for equality and rights.
The exhibition also includes several recent acquistions, including a 19th century copy of the Book of Acolytes, the oldest and most famous Japanese depiction of male-male sexual relations.
Many LGBTQ organisations and individuals have shared their expertise and experiences to help shape the final display.
With the support of the Dorset Foundation in memory of Harry M Weinrebe, the exhibition will travel to four UK venues from September 2018 to August 2019: the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford; the National Justice Museum, Nottingham; Bolton Museum; and Norwich Millennium Library.
The British Museum
The British Museum is a national presence and works with hundreds of UK partner organisations each year through its wide-ranging National Programmes activity. This includes single-object Spotlight tours, touring exhibitions, partnership galleries, short-term loans and long-term loans, with the lead support of the Dorset Foundation in memory of Harry M Weinrebe. In 2017/18, over 2,550 objects were loaned to 126 venues in the UK, reaching 9.2 million people outside London. The Museum will continue to develop partnerships across the UK as part of its commitment to sharing the collection as widely as possible.