Coming Out: Sexuality, Gender & Identity

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The UK’s largest exhibition to explore LGBT+ history through contemporary art.

An Arts Council Collection National Partners Exhibition.

The Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool, is set to open the UK’s largest exhibition dedicated to exploring sex, gender and LGBT+ history through modern and contemporary art.

Coming Out: Sexuality, Gender & Identity, opening at the Walker Art Gallery on 28 July until 5 November 2017, marks 50 years since the partial decriminalisation of male homosexual acts was passed in England and Wales (1967 Sexual Offences Act), on 27 July 1967.

From Derek Jarman and Steve McQueen to Anya Gallaccio and Zanele Muholi, the artists represented across almost 100 artworks have used their work to explore sexuality and gender identity since 1967, after the passing of the Act.

Charlotte Keenan, Curator of British Art at National Museums Liverpool, said:

Coming Out will be one of the most important exhibitions in the Walker’s history. Showcasing the results of several years of research, it will make visible the themes of sexuality, gender identity and queerness that lie at the heart of some of Britain’s most significant contemporary works.

“The exhibition also forms part of an even greater ambition for us; to make queer British art and its importance to art history permanently visible within our galleries. Visitors can expect to see new interpretation within our permanent displays, as well as some exciting new acquisitions as we look to show – through our own collections – that LGBT+ history is everybody’s history.” 

Coming Out will reveal the findings of more than two years of research by the Walker into LGBT+ history and visual culture, exploring artworks within the Arts Council Collection as well as its own collection. Much of the research was developed as part of National Museums Liverpool’s Pride & Prejudice project, a two-year project funded by the Esmée Fairbairn Collections Fund.

Jill Constantine, Head of Arts Council Collection, said:

“Marking the 50th anniversary of the partial decriminalisation of male homosexual acts in England and Wales, Coming Out explores sexuality, gender and identity and will act as a catalyst for discussion of these subjects with a broader audience. We are delighted and proud to be such a substantial part of this exhibition marking such an important moment in LGBT+ history.”

Works on display in Coming Out include feminist art by Margaret Harrison and provocative works by Linder, Marvin Gaye Chetwynd and Sarah Lucas. Arresting photography by Sunil Gupta, Maud Sulter and Wolfgang Tillmans feature, along with performances pieces and a number of audio-visual works by artists including Isaac Julien, Hilary Lloyd and James Richards.

A striking Arts Council Collection installation piece by Anya Gallaccio is included in the exhibition, titled Can Love Remember the Question and the Answer (2003). The work comprises a pair of mahogany doors. Prior to display, 60 gerbera flowers are inserted within the window panes of the doors. During the run of Coming Out, the gerberas will begin to decompose.

The exhibition will also be an opportunity to see a number of new acquisitions for the Walker, recently acquired through Art Fund’s New Collecting Awards, including the Gallery’s first performance piece; tarot card readings which form part of John Walter’s Alien Sex Club, designed to encourage conversation and raise awareness around HIV and its transmission.

UK Gay Bar Directory by Hannah Quinlan and Rosie Hastings is an AV piece presenting footage of 180 gay bars across the UK, intended as a response to the gentrification of the gay scene in London, and the closure of many historic and popular venues. This will be the first time that work by the artists has entered a public art collection.

The co-artists Pauline Boudry / Renate Lorenz’s I Want (2015) is also included as a new acquisition through Art Fund’s New Collecting Award scheme. This film installation, featuring artist Sharon Hayes, is based on a script that plagiarises from the texts of punk poet Kathy Acker as well as the chats and addresses of whistle-blower Chelsea Manning.

Central to the exhibition will be a free programme of events and performances. Organised in partnership with artists, activists and communities, they will take place in FORUM; a designated room at the heart of the exhibition. The events are designed to encourage optimistic conversations around topics that have been ignored by institutions in the past.

Event highlights include a performance piece by Paul Maheke and ‘nail transphobia’ manicures by activist Charlie Craggs. While offering free manicures, Craggs will chat to visitors, encouraging them to ask questions relating to her experience as a trans woman, with the aim of addressing some common misconceptions.

The exhibition is accompanied by a catalogue, priced at £12.00. The publication includes illustrations of many of the exhibition’s most arresting artworks with accompanying interpretation, as well as texts placing the exhibition and its themes into a wider context. It also reproduces the transcript of Pauline Boudry / Renate Lorenz’s film I Want.

Coming Out is a touring exhibition conceived by National Museums Liverpool, in partnership with Birmingham Museums Trust as part of the Arts Council Collection National Partners Programme 2016-19.

The show will travel to Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery in December 2017 where it will be re-presented within the major Gas Hall exhibition space.

The Walker Art Gallery is an Arts Council Collection National Partner. The Arts Council Collection is managed by Southbank Centre, London on behalf of Arts Council England.

Notes to Editors

About the Walker Art Gallery
The Walker Art Gallery houses an internationally-renowned collection of paintings, sculpture and decorative art. It is one of Europe’s finest galleries, with a collection that ranges from outstanding modern and contemporary works to Medieval and Renaissance masterpieces. Some of the greatest British artists of the last century are represented in the contemporary galleries, from Lucian Freud to David Hockney, while the Gallery’s Impressionist collection is not to be missed. Visitors can also see paintings by 17th and 18th century masters including Poussin, Rembrandt and Gainsborough, before taking in the Walker’s famed Pre-Raphaelite collection. Younger visitors will love Big Art for Little Artists, a gallery designed to introduce children to art in a fun and interactive way. The Walker Art Gallery is an Arts Council Collection National Partner. Between April 2016 and March 2019, the Gallery will curate and host an exciting and innovative series of contemporary art exhibitions, drawn from the Arts Council Collection.

About National Museums Liverpool
National Museums Liverpool comprises eight venues, including some of the most visited museums in England outside of London. Our collections are among the most important and varied in Europe and contain everything from Impressionist paintings and rare beetles to a lifejacket from the Titanic. We attract around 3 million visitors every year. Our venues are the Museum of Liverpool, World Museum, the Walker Art Gallery, Merseyside Maritime Museum, International Slavery Museum, Border Force National Museum, Sudley House and the Lady Lever Art Gallery.

About Arts Council Collection
The Arts Council Collection is a national loan collection of British art from 1946 to the present day. With nearly 8,000 works and more than 1,000 loans made to over 100 venues a year, it is seen by millions of people in public spaces from galleries and museums to hospitals, libraries and universities. Representing one of the most important collections of British modern and contemporary art in the world, it includes work from Francis Bacon, Barbara Hepworth and Henry Moore to Lucian Freud, Antony Gormley and Grayson Perry. The Collection supports and promotes British artists by acquiring art at an early stage of their careers. The Arts Council Collection is managed by Southbank Centre, London and includes the Sculpture Centre located at Longside, Yorkshire Sculpture Park.

About National Partners Programme
To mark the Arts Council Collection’s 70th anniversary, Arts Council England invested in a network of four National Partner museums and galleries across England, Towner Art Gallery, Eastbourne, Birmingham Museums Trust, The Walker Art Gallery, National Museums Liverpool and the Collection’s existing partner, Yorkshire Sculpture Park. The partners will provide a year-round home for art works within the Collection, hosting a special programme of at least 24 National Partner exhibitions between April 2016 and Spring 2019.

About Arts Council England
Arts Council England champions, develops and invests in artistic and cultural experiences that enrich people’s lives. We support a range of activities across the arts, museums and libraries – from theatre to digital art, reading to dance, music to literature, and crafts to collections.

About Southbank Centre
The Arts Council Collection is managed by Southbank Centre, London on behalf of Arts Council England. Southbank Centre is the UK’s largest arts centre, occupying a 21-acre site that sits in the midst of London’s most vibrant cultural quarter on the South Bank of the Thames. The site has an extraordinary creative and architectural history stretching back to the 1951 Festival of Britain. Southbank Centre is home to the Royal Festival Hall, Queen Elizabeth Hall, Purcell Room and the Hayward Gallery as well as The Poetry Library and the Arts Council Collection. The Arts Council Collection is managed by Southbank Centre, London on behalf of Arts Council England.

About Art Fund
Art Fund is the national fundraising charity for art. In the past five years alone Art Fund has given £34 million to help museums and galleries acquire works of art for their collections. It also helps museums share their collections with wider audiences by supporting a range of tours and exhibitions, and makes additional grants to support the training and professional development of curators. Art Fund is independently funded, with the core of its income provided by 123,000 members who receive the National Art Pass and enjoy free entry to over 240 museums, galleries and historic places across the UK, as well as 50% off entry to major exhibitions and subscription to Art Quarterly magazine. In addition to grant-giving, Art Fund’s support for museums includes Art Fund Museum of the Year (won by the V&A, London, in 2016) and a range of digital platforms. Find out more about Art Fund, New Collecting Awards and the National Art Pass at