Pawel Leszkowicz. Queering the collections of Art museums.
The article will deal with the artistic, sexual and political implications of queering the art collections of national museums. I will focus on the curatorial strategy behind my exhibition Ars Homo Erotica at the National Museum in Warsaw (2010). The project combined the discovery of homoerotic works from the entire historical collection of the Museum with the exploration of the contemporary queer art of Central and Eastern Europe. The case of this exhibition would function as an opening for broader reflections on queer curatorial practices in the major museums and on queering the museums art collections in general. The international art scene has witnessed an increase in queer exhibitions. These shows have shed new light on LGBTQ art and on the sexual and social dimensions of innovative curating and collecting. I intend to examine a wide range of issues, among them: the queering of art collections; the discovery and recovery of repressed queer histories, images and desires in museum and galleries archives; political work of queer curatorial practices, focused on established art collections connected with national identities. My exhibition Ars Homo Erotica is an answer to the marginalization of homoerotic art in the museum display. The selection of works according to lesbian and gay homoerotic iconography allowed me to reach the unconscious part of the museum and its archives. It involved the discovery of many forgotten objects, which were considered to be less important, or the emphasis on homoerotic pieces that were silenced in the permanent display. I was working mainly with art objects from the storages of the museum, delving into its suppressed material. I would like to share my reflection on the authoritarian concept of mainstream museums and art collections and the strategies to challenge it. The mainstream cultural institution as well as the personal and national identity have to question what is in, what is out, bringing outside what has been hidden, suppressed, breaking the heteronormative filter. As Ars Homo Erotica was directly engaged in the current politics of queer rights in Central and Eastern Europe, it would allow me to reflect on the social and geographical implication of queer curating and of queering the national visual archives canonized by the museological practice.
Dr. Pawel Leszkowicz is an art historian, academic lecturer and freelance curator specializing in contemporary art and LGBTQ studies, working in Poland and in the UK. He is the author of the Ars Homo Erotica (2010) exhibition at Warsaw’s National Museum. He has written four books: «Helen Chadwick. The Iconography of Subjectivity» (2001), «Love and Democracy. Reflections on the Homosexual Question in Poland» (2005), «Art Pride. Gay Art from Poland» (2010), and «The Naked Man: The Male Nude in post-1945 Polish Art» (2012). Collaborating with a number of galleries and museums, he has curated and co-organized several international queer exhibitions and symposia: Love and Democracy (2006), Vogue (2009), Ars Homo Erotica (2010), Love is Love. Art as LGBTQ Activism from Britain to Belarus (2011), Civil Partnerships. Feminist and Queer Art and Activism in the UK (2012), Exhibitionism: A Symposium on Queer Curatorial Practices in the UK (2011), A Symposium on Contemporary Queer Art in the UK (2012). He is currently a Visiting Research Fellow at the University of Sussex and the University of Brighton and is working on a comparative study of LGBTQ rights and art in the UK and Poland.