(Un)Defining Queer at The Whitworth

(Un)Defining Queer
The Whitworth
26th January 2023 – 26th November 2023

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jamu X, Bud Kim,2018 part of (un)defining queer at the Whitworth
Ajamu X, Bud Kim, 2018, Giclée print, Collection of the artist, Ajamu X

This first-of-its-kind exhibition at the Whitworth delves into the gallery’s collection to explore how we can use a queer lens to define what the term ‘queer’ means. Examining same sex love and desire and gender fluidity across different cultures, the exhibition offers a survey of artworks that seeks to redress historic omissions that have existed because of heteronormative museum practice.

Presenting collection works alongside loans the exhibition includes artists Ajamu X, Niki de Saint Phalle, General Idea, David Hockney, Maggi Hambling, Pearl Alcock, Keith Vaughan, Matthew Bamber, Sarah-Joy Ford, Wolfgang Tilmans, Chester Tenneson and Jez Dolan.

Exhibition producer Dominic Bilton has led the development of this exhibition in partnership with Curator (Historic Fine Art) Imogen Holmes-Roe and with support from the LGBT Foundation. Dominic said: “LGBTQIA+ people representation in the art collection, in the gallery, in history and in culture is so important. It shows how they have informed things like printmaking, textiles, and art practice.

“We have an opportunity, through the exhibition and engagement with our LGBTQIA+ communities to amplify and support an often-marginalised group. Traditionally museums and galleries have not engaged with LGBTQIA+ communities, whether that be due to lack of expertise on queer art history, or a lack of capacity and knowledge around how to engage with our queer communities. (Un)Defining Queer , seeks to redress these historic omissions by presenting works, some that have never been on display before, interpreted through a queer lens.”

Paul Cézanne, Les Baigneurs (Grande
Planche), 1896
– 97, Lithograph, University of Manchester

Dominic added: “We’ve got over 70 artworks in the exhibition, and I really hope that people feel inspired, and get a sense of history and community from it. I hope people come away from this exhibition proud of who they are regardless of whether or not they are queer.”

(Un)Defining Queer  is a participatory-led project that has been working with an intersectional group of people, who self-identify as LGBTQIA+ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and/or questioning, intersex and asexual) to help us develop a glossary of queer terms. As part of the exhibition, visitors will be invited to contribute to the development of our ‘Queer Glossary’ as we explore how to define LGBTQIA+ representation and visibility within the gallery.

Exhibition curator Imogen Holmes-Roe said: “(Un)Defining Queer is an exciting opportunity for the gallery to continue building on the work that has already begun through our wider Queering the Whitworth programme and to give it greater visibility. Through working alongside the project’s participants, we have discovered artworks that either haven’t been shown at the Whitworth or interpreted through this lens before.”

Centred around key themes that include Queer Gaze, Performativity, Chosen Family, Mythology and Activism, the exhibition seeks to challenge the heteronormative gaze. The space itself will hold moments of activism, from the colour scheme that is used within the exhibition, reclamation of homophobic language to the year-long inclusive engagement programme.

In proud partnership with the LGBT Foundation.

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