Queer had its genesis in an LGBT themed issue of the Art Journal of the National Gallery of Victoria, put together as a response to the Marriage Equality debate in Australia in 2017. The editorial team soon realised that the queer-themed art that NGV owned demanded a bigger canvas.

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Myles Russell-Cook, Senior Curator of Indigenous Art and Dr Angela Hesson, Curator of Australian Art, the editors of the art journal were soon joined by Dr Ted Gott, Senior Curator of International Art, Dr Angela Hesson, Curator of Australian Art, Meg Slater, Assistant Curator of International Exhibition Projects and Pip Wallis, Curator of Contemporary Art to work on a much larger exhibition. 

Zinathi I(2015) from the Somnyama Ngonyama series by acclaimed South African non-binary visual artist, Zanele Muholi.

Five years in the making, ‘QUEER – Stories From The NGV Collection’ is an Australian-first landmark exhibition, with over 400 artworks and is one of the largest collections of queer artworks exhibited in the country.

 

Also Read Our Other Queer: NGV Stories: 

PAUL YORE: PORTRAIT OF THE ARTIST AS AN ACTIVIST

THE FIRST NATIONS CONTENT IS QUITE AN EXCITING PART OF THE SHOW

 

 

José LÓPEZ Luis MEDINA Fullerton Avenue, Gay Parade (1976)

Queer Stories Across Different Areas and Mediums

“We started to look at our areas of the collection and realised just how much there was in the NGV holdings that can tell queer stories across different areas and mediums,” Wallis told Star Observer

Leigh BOWERY The Metropolitan (c. 1988).

“It kind of just snowballed from there to the point where we realized that not only could we do a really fulsome exhibition, but we could take over a whole floor of the museum to do it. It went from quite a modest project to becoming our biggest ever collection exhibition,” said Wallis. 

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The team is at pains to point out that the exhibition is not the definitive history of queer art. According to Slater, one of the real strengths of the show is how Queer deals with the blanks and missing pieces of the puzzle. 

Brook Andrew explores queer identity, sexuality and mythmaking in Sexy & Dangerous II (1997), where he superimposes Chinese characters onto the photograph of Cunningham, an Aboriginal man.

What Isn’t on the Wall is Just as Important as What is

“One thing that has always guided our approach is that the aim here is not fill all of the many gaps that exist in terms of representation of trans histories, or histories of non-binary, gender diverse, people of colour but instead to open up discussions around those absences and omissions and why do they exist,” said Slater. 

William in scholar’s costume 2008 by William Yang.

It is also reflected in how First Nations artists and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander artists have dealt with the erasure of Indigenous culture and queer histories. Russel-Cook in an earlier interview with Star Observer had pointed out how a number of contemporary queer First Nations and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander artists are drawing from the archives or references material from before the arrival of European settlers. 

The letter (1926) by Agnes Goodsir.

“We have artists like Clinton Naina, whose bold work ‘Mission Brown Heart’ looks at the experience of being dispossessed by missionaries in Australia post the arrival of the British,” said Russel-Cook. 

“What isn’t on the wall is just as important as what is and sort of interrogates why certain identities aren’t represented within institutional histories,” adds Slater. 

QUEER: Stories from the NGV Collection will run from March 10, 2022 to August 21, 2022 at NGV INTERNATIONAL, LEVEL 3, St Kilda Road, Melbourne. Free entry.

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