Inside the NGV's Queer Exhibition

By Beau
Beau is the founder of Apollo Social. He recently relocated to Melbourne with his husband and has begun a love affair with the city.
We take a look at five note-worthy artworks from the NGV’s “Queer” exhibition which opened on Thursday.

The exhibition is the largest collection of queer art ever exhibited by an Australian gallery. At over 400 works and occupying the entire 3rd floor of the NGV International gallery, there is a huge number of artworks to see. We have selected five that caught our eye and looked into their backstories.

Untitled #4 in Behold series

Untitled #4 in Behold series Untitled #4 in Behold series, Hoda Afshar

This intimate scene from an Iranian bathhouse was taken by Hoda Afshar, an Iranian-born photographer, now based in Melbourne. A group of gay men invited her into a traditional bathhouse in Iran to document what she saw. The entire series can be seen on The Guardian

The Metropolitan

This dress was named for its appearance at the Met in New York. The artist, Leigh Bowery, wore the garment and stunned crowds during a visit to a Lucian Freud exhibition opening in 1993 (Freud had painted nudes of Bowery). Bowery paired the full-length floral sateen dress with a face covering, a black ‘Kaiser’ helmet, a pair of camouflage print leather gloves, and pink platform heels. 

The Metropolitan, Leigh Bowery The Metropolitan, Leigh Bowery. Instagram @leighbowery

The artist was born and raised in Melbourne but was drawn to London's underground club culture. He became a key figure in London's club scene while running his own club, Taboo. While short-lived, the club had a huge cultural and creative impact on the city. Fellow performer and friend Boy George said that his performances "never ceased to impress or revolt". Bowery was particularly drawn to experimental fashion. He onced described Taboo's dress code as “Dress as though your life depends on it, or don’t bother”. The Metropolitan combines his appreciation of fashion with his love of club kid culture. 

Recumbent nude male figure on rocks

Recumbent Nude Male Figure on RocksRecumbent Nude Male Figure on Rocks, William Mulready

This painting and the story of the artist who created it demonstrates the process of interpreting art from a queer perspective that was required when curating this exhibition.

William Mulready appears to have had a relationship with fellow artist John Linnel whom he met while studying at the Royal Academy in London. The two men were often seen sketching together in the village in which they lived. Mulready’s marriage eventually broke down and recently discovered letters from his wife reveal why. In the letters, she accused him of having an affair with Linnel as well as taking young men to his bed. 

The homoerotic nature of this painting, as well as his other male nudes, gives further credence to the idea that Muldready was gay or bisexual.

Stuck on you

Stuck on You, Dylan Mooney Stuck on You, Dylan Mooney. Instagram @dylanmooney__

This digital drawing comes from the “Queer, Blak & Here” series which features young male couples in moonlit tender embraces. Each of the drawings in the series combines First Nations themes (such as Aboriginal art and body painting) with queer themes (including the pride flag and rainbow colours).

The artist, Dylan Mooney, places queer First Nations characters in contemporary settings in comic-book style digital drawings with the aim of increasing representation and empowerment of First Nations peoples.

Apollo and the Python

Apollo and the Python, Saloman GessnerApollo and the Python, Saloman Gessner

Apollo (from which this site takes its name) is a key figure in the gay story. He was the Greek god of the sun, music and dance (among other things). He was known to take both male and female lovers, most notably with the youthful Spartan prince Hyacinth, who died catching a discus that Apollo had thrown. Apollo wept as his lover died in his arms and from his spilled blood he created the flower of the same name to commemorate his lover’s beauty. It is for Apollo’s relationships with men that he is considered the patron of same-sex love, and also why he was chosen as the name of this site. In this etching by Saloman Gessner, Apollo is shown next to the mythical python, the guardian serpent that guarded the Oracle at Delphi, which Apollo has just slain.

Queer: Stories from the NGV collection is at NGV International, level 3, March 10-August 21,