To mark the 50th anniversary of the partial decriminalisation of male homosexuality in England and Wales, Tate Britain is hosting the first exhibition dedicated to queer British art. I went at the weekend with my friend Manel, and can vouch that Sunday morning is definitely the time to go. Perhaps now more than ever, with David Hockney drawing the crowds, the remaining areas of the gallery seem more blissfully spacious than usual.
The exhibition looks at work which was produced between the abolition of the death penalty for sodomy in 1861 and the passing of the Sexual Offences Act in 1967. Themes explored include coded desires amongst the Pre-Raphaelites, representations of and by women who defied convention (including Virginia Woolf), and love and lust in sixties Soho.
For me I found the whole premise slightly questionable, and as my brother said - 'isn't all art queer?'. What makes one piece queer and another not? The programme notes are very interesting to read, and make an admirable attempt at drawing common themes and threads together, but I feel that an audio guide would have added a level of conviction in the exhibition. Saying that, I rather enjoyed racing around the exhibition to see what caught my eye, but then headed back upstairs to explore the permanent collection.