Queer: Stories from the NGV Collection

Thu 10th March, 2022 – Sun 21st August, 2022
NGV International
180 St Kilda Road, Melbourne
Price: Free entry
This camp and kitsch celebration of art and fashion draws from the NGV’s vast collection to highlight queer stories, figures and narratives – known and unknown.

The first thing to catch your eye upon arriving at the third floor of the NGV is a large, capitalised five-letter word emblazoned in black paint across a sheer white wall: QUEER. It marks the threshold of Queer: Stories from the NGV Collection, a landmark, Australian-first exhibition curated by an entirely queer curatorial team and spanning more than five gallery spaces, which explores more than 400 artworks through a queer lens.

Stepping in and heading straight will take you to the ‘queer activism’ section of the exhibition. Here, the pride flag hangs alongside arts of work by queer activists through the ages. Turning left will have you staring into the eyes of a self-portrait of Andy Warhol, his gaze following as you walk into a room containing some of the NGV's oldest works on display. Veering right will bring you face-to-face with a short film by Hannah Brontë and a room full of fashion, camp and kitsch. The choice is yours.

Emboldened by the discourse around the 2017 marriage equality debate, Queer: Stories from the NGV Collection began as a way for curators Dr Ted Gott, Dr Angela Hesson, Myles Russell-Cook, Meg Slater and Pip Wallis to provide the queer community with a space to celebrate queer people, queer art and queer culture. After surveying the NGV’s expansive collection, the interdepartmental team of curators realised there were enough artworks in the collection to dedicate the entire third floor of the NGV to an exploration of queer passion, power and politics.

While the works included in Queer: Stories from the NGV Collection feature figures from queer history, not all are sympathetic figures. For example, while one room hosts portraits of modern queer icons like Judy Garland, Elizabeth Taylor and Madonna, in another is a portrait of Henry VIII, the English patriarch who introduced the Buggery Act of 1533, which led to hundreds of years in which queer people were put to death based on their sexuality.

Fashion highlights include Leigh Bowery’s The Metropolitan, and Lizzie Garner’s American Express Gold Card dress; while tributes to queer spaces like St James Park in London, and the Island of Capri show the queer story through a geographical perspective. Of course, you can also expect the exhibition to be full of camp.

Visitors to Queer: Stories from the NGV Collection are urged to make use of the complimentary audio guide care of principal partner American Express, featuring the voices of all five curators leading listeners through the space and bringing to life the queer stories behind the artworks (BYO smartphone and headphones).

And for the exhibition’s final weekend, the NGV is hosting a series of artist, curator and community talks on the afternoon of Saturday August 20, before throwing a night-time bash called NGV Queer Climax that same evening. Drag entertainer Aysha Buffet is hosting, with a line-up of queer acts taking the stage. It includes evening access to the exhibition and pop-up bars open throughout the night. Entry is free but spots are limited – book here.

There are more performances and film screenings scheduled for Sunday August 21.

Broadsheet is a proud media partner of NGV.