International Journal of Art & Design Education

Hidden Histories: The Experience of Curating a Male Same Sex Exhibition and the Problems Encountered

Volume 26.1   2007



Hidden Histories was the first international historical survey of its kind to examine the lives and work of male artists in the 20th century who were same sex lovers. It comprised a curatorial project within The University of Wolverhampton, an exhibition at The New Art Gallery Walsall and a publication by Artmedia Press. This text looks at issues that arose in the production of the project which included a change of name from Mad About the Boy, ethical concerns, and censorship by the local council.
Hidden Histories did not contend there was a queer, gay or same sex aesthetic connecting the work of the surveyed artists. It did not 'out' anyone – all the information presented existed in the public domain. Hidden Histories documented how male artists' work was affected by evolving attitudes to homosexuality. Its thesis (the arch of openness) describes how public attitudes changed throughout the 20th Century; from prohibition in the late Victorian Period, to begrudging tolerance in the inter-wars years; from relative openness post WWI, to outright homophobia during the Cold War; and from decriminalisation in the West (following the Stonewall Riots), to stigma in the AIDS era. Hidden Histories was premised on the inter-dependence of same sex and dominant cultures, and demonstrates that irrespective of legal or societal prohibitions, same sex lovers continued to make a rich and varied contribution to artistic dialogue.