11 June – 5 September 2010
Ars Homo Erotica
Curator: Paweł Leszkowicz
This exhibition is contemporary and historical, erotic and political. The title designates homoerotic art related to same-sex desire and love. Ars Homo Erotica is immersed in the tradition of culture while touching on the current politics of minority rights. It combines myths and the history of art with the contemporary and the debate on the condition of democracy. It builds on the philosophy of eroticism as an experience formative to humanist ideas and their affirmation of the joy of life and sex, even in the face of repression.
The exhibition proposes a different perspective on the history of culture, the collection of the Museum, and the art of Central and Eastern Europe. Works from the collection of the National Museum in Warsaw as well as works of specially invited contemporary artists survey the history of culture, from Antiquity until the present, from the point of view of the homosexual imagination. This perspective points to a different canon of art and love in Western civilisation and liberates it of the heteronormative filter and taboo. The homoerotic is taken as an aesthetic and erotic quality present in visual representation. The selection criterion is not the artist’s orientation, it is the theme or context of the work.
To select works from the perspective of female and male homoerotic iconography is to queer the museum collection, to reach areas of the unconscious and to renew the methods of their presentation. It also aims to uncover and accentuate many forgotten artefacts and to highlight neglected meanings.
The forms of male and female homosexuality have differed throughout history, a diversity of universality. Hence the transhistoric and eclectic profile of the presentation which introduces a world of images full of allusions, codes and subtexts. They were the only means of expressing homosexuality in times of oppression. The exhibition affords the opportunity to recall double meanings of mythological and biblical stories.
In order to systematise the multitude of representations and metaphors, the exhibition has been divided into thematic sections which juxtapose historical and contemporary works of art. This creates a narration with a graded politics, erotics, and aesthetics.
Let us enter the homoerotic universe but never forget that eroticism and desire are more than the senses and the body: they are aspects of the inner life of human beings, the history of culture, and the politics of mores. All these layers are presented in the exhibition.
The exhibition begins in the main lobby. Time of Struggle is devoted to art engaged in the politics of sexuality and human rights. The visitor is introduced to the history of culture through the current political situation in Central and Eastern Europe and will thus bear in mind the social context when journeying across the various dimensions of the homoerotic. The social context has always been controversial, as it is today, and art has always had to face norms imposed on sexual diversity.
Homoerotic Classicism is a gallery of Classical and Classicist male nudes and portraits reminiscent of antique gods and heroes of homosexual myths and stories. Classicism was an aestheticinspired by the art of ancient Greece and Rome. This is where homosexual imagination of European culture originated. Homoerotic Classicism takes us to the roots of Western civilisation, art, erotics, and democracy.
Male Nude presents various forms of the sensuous male nude, from 19th century academic studies and realist painting to contemporary gay art.
Male Couples and Ganymede accentuate the Romantic and erotic iconography of male couples in literal contemporary works and in the metaphorical, mythological and religious art of the past. We witness a homo-mythology of relationships: Hyacinth and Apollo, Achilles and Patroclus, David and Goliath, Zeus and Ganymede.
Saint Sebastian is the section devoted to the greatest homoerotic icon of Christianity and its impersonations, from Renaissance painting to video art.
Lesbian Imaginarium is a collection of paintings of different femininity throughout the history of art. It presents the continuum of female homoeroticism in visual culture from Sappho, figured on antique vases, to contemporary portraits of lesbian couples.
Transgender is the section of the exhibition relating to concepts and representations of identities located between the genders, transgressing the normative, binary gender system. Works of art take us from mythical androgyny to contemporary masquerades and politics of gender subversion.
Archive presents Polish posters for works of famous homosexual film and theatre directors, playwrights, and artists.
Paweł Leszkowicztranslated by Marcin Łakomski