On my first full day living (temporarily) in London, I headed on over to the Tate Britain for the first time, to view their current exhibition, and the first ever exhibition on queer British art. The exhibition is free for members, or £15 otherwise (or £13.10 for all you students out there), and is so much more than an exhibition.
I went in around half past six on Saturday, and left almost two hours later. The exhibition is split into six sections, with other events around the gallery including music and spoken word performances. It’s a real celebration, and I expected nothing less.
The LGBT+ community are very present at the exhibition and it was nice to see an institution like Tate open their doors so fully to a community, and to allow fun, bright and happy celebrations to occur. The art itself is fantastically interesting, and successfully tells a story of generations of writers, painters and inspirations whose impact carries through to this day; from varying feminisms to early drag, and even fashion.
Although the art and its stories are definitely worth talking about, I am not an expert, or even as knowledgeable about art as I’d like to be, and I think the best thing about the exhibition was not the frames on the walls, but the people walking room from room, celebrating their pride and their own history, just by being there. It was the most unique and charming atmosphere I’ve ever experienced inside a gallery.
When I neared the end of the exhibition, having slowly wandered room to room, reading every plaque, and admiring every painting, sketch and statue, I could hear the thudding bass of an ABBA track in the distance. In the final room, two doors seemed to be illuminated pink from the other side, and I could hear an assortment of Madonna, Lady Gaga and similar. Upon opening the door and leaving the exhibition, we left the history behind, and entered into the bright pink party celebration where love happens, now.
People from all over were just dancing together to great music, and I don’t think it gets much better than that.
The exhibition is on until 01/10/17, book here: http://www.tate.org.uk/whats-on/tate-britain/exhibition/queer-british-art-1861-1967
Words by Briony Brake
Images by Tate Britain and Briony Brake