Must-See Queer Feminist Art Exhibitions in Europe Summer 2019

By Birthe Havmoeller and Anna McNay

With LGBT communities around the world celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall riots this year, there will be lots of queer art exhibitions in the USA and Canada this summer commemorating this landmark event, which changed the course of history for LGBT people. In this article, however, Anna McNay and I are focusing on where to see works of art by lesbian, bisexual and queer feminist artists in Europe during the summer of 2019.

La Biennale di Venezia – Shu Lea Cheang’s 3x3x6
Dates: May 11 – November 24, 2019
Venue: Palazzo delle Prigioni, Castello 4209, San Marco, Venice, Italy
For Taiwan’s collateral presentation at the Venice Biennale 2019, Shu Lea Cheang is presenting a new work in a former Venetian prison. A video installation named 3x3x6, it makes reference to today’s standardised architecture of industrial imprisonment: a 9-square-metre prison cell constantly monitored by six cameras. Related to 10 cases of imprisonment due to gender, sexual and racial nonconformity, both past and present, 3x3x6 questions the legal and visual regimes that have formed sexual and gender norms over time. Through her works in this exhibition, which also includes 10 short trans punk fiction films, Shu Lea Cheang bridges queer/transgender activism and hacktivism.
Curated by Paul B Preciado

La Biennale di Venezia – May You Live in Interesting Times
Dates: May 11 – November 24, 2019
Venue: Giardini/Arsenale, Venice, Italy
Queer artists: photographer Zanele Muholi, painter Julie Mehretu, visual artist Ulrike Müller and painter Nicole Eisenman are among the 79 artists participating in the 58th Venice Biennale’s main exhibition, May You Live in Interesting Times, held in the central pavilion. This exhibition does not have a theme per se, but highlights a general approach to art-making and a view of art’s social function as embracing both pleasure and critical thinking.
Curated by Ralph Rugoff

La Biennale di Venezia – Pauline Boudry / Renate Lorenz
Dates: May 11 – November 24, 2019
Venue: Swiss Pavilion, Venice Biennale, Venice, Italy
Challenging notions of gender, Pauline Boudry and Renate Lorenz question the norms that govern our representations and our life in society. What lends their work such force is that it moves beyond mere criticism or deconstruction. Their installations, films and performances are conceived as dispositifs capable of inventing other ways of being in the world, ones no longer split by categories of identity and binarisms. Their practice of ‘denormalisation’ has led them to question the ‘agency’ of artistic objects or gestures in their relationships to those who experience them.
Curated by Charlotte Laubard in collaboration with Julia Stoschek Collection, Berlin

Dates: April 26 – July 28, 2019
Venue: Julia Stoschek Collection (JSC), Berlin, Germany
ONGOING EXPERIMENTS WITH STRANGENESS is Pauline Boudry / Renate Lorenz’s most comprehensive exhibition to date. Spanning the ground floor and first-floor cinema of the collection’s Berlin gallery, the show comprises four large-scale moving-image installations, stage elements, lights, and sculptural objects. Through their camera work, Boudry / Lorenz reflect the violent history of visualisation, questioning who or what is seen and in return goes unseen or unheard. The on- and off-screen human and non-human encounters examine the limits of musical and filmic forms as protest and resistance, calling for an urgently desired future.
Curated by Lisa Long

Event: artist talk – Pauline Boudry / Renate Lorenz with Irene Revell and Lisa Long
July 27, 2019, 6:30pm at JSC Berlin, Germany.

Sharon Hayes – Echo
Dates: April 13 – August 11, 2019
Venue: Moderna Museet, Stockholm, Sweden
Echo explores the idea of the exhibition as an echo chamber, where Hayes lets voices and materials reverberate between different historic events. It also references a feminist interpretation of the classical myth of Echo, the nymph who is cursed for her conversational skills. In her performances, photographs and sound and video pieces, queer feminist artist Sharon Hayes relocates private speech to the public sphere. With the video installation In My Little Corner of the World, Anyone Would Love You (2016), Hayes acts a pivotal work in the feminist and queer grass roots movement of the 1950s-1970s, of putting words to experiences and dreams that could not previously be voiced. The exhibition also features the works Symbionese Liberation Army (SLA) (2003) and several works address Everything Else Has Failed! Don’t You Think it’s Time for Love? (2007), a daily performance of anonymous love letters in the street outside a bank in New York in a time of war and financial crisis.
Curated by Lena Essling

Moomin Animations – Thrills and Cuddles
Dates: April 25, 2019 – January 26, 2020
The Moomin Museum, Tampere, Finland
This exhibition showcases the history of the different Moomin animations by lesbian author, illustrator and visual artist Tove Jansson (1914-2001). Many different animated versions of Jansson’s beloved Moomin books have been produced over the decades. The earliest Moomin animations date back almost 60 years. The exhibition features screenings of animations and archival material, such as different manuscript versions, hand-drawn sketches, three-dimensional models, sound samples and digital mock-ups.
Curated by the Moomin Museum

Copyright Rachel Ara

This Much I’m Worth (the self-evaluating artwork) by Rachel Ara.

Vienna Biennale – UNCANNY VALUES: Artificial Intelligence & You
Dates: May 29 – October 6, 2019
Venue: MAK, Vienna, Austria
The group exhibition UNCANNY VALUES: Artificial Intelligence & You, explores one of the most important subjects of the coming decades, one that has significant consequences for all areas of our lives: artificial intelligence (AI). Among the artists included are the queer conceptual and data artist Rachel Ara with her work This Much I’m Worth (the self-evaluating artwork).
Curated by Paul Feigelfeld, Media Theorist, and Marlies Wirth, Curator, Digital Culture and MAK Design Collection

Céline Baumann: Queer Nature
Dates: May 3 – June 22, 2019
Venue: VI PER Gallery, Prague, Czech Republic
The exhibition Queer Nature by Céline Baumann, a French garden and landscape architect working in Switzerland, explores the little-known, often-overlooked, and rare intimate behaviour of the botanical world. We live in a world that is constantly evolving, accepting a spectrum of values more diverse than ever before. Increasingly, it is difficult for preconceived patterns and one-sided ideas to respond to contemporary circumstances. How can we create a feeling of inclusivity that transcends archetypes? How can we confront the notion of standards with individual experiences allowing other forms of emancipation? Here, we embrace the notion that plants are our oldest teachers and share stories about their more-than-human knowledge. By opening a post-anthropocene space for reflection, the artist challenges the belief that matter and intelligence should be dissociated, regarding flora as more than a mere commodity.

Lola Flash – [sur]passing
Dates: April 26 – August 17, 2019
Venue. Autograph, Rivington Place, London, UK
Working at the forefront of genderqueer visual politics for more than three decades, photographer Lola Flash’s work challenges stereotypes and gender, sexual, and racial preconceptions. Her art and activism are profoundly connected, fuelling a life-long commitment to visibility and preserving the legacy of LGBTQIA+ and communities of colour worldwide.
Curated by Renée Mussai and Bindi Vora

Zoe Williams: Sunday Fantasy
Dates: May 25 – July 27, 2019
Venue: Mimosa House, London, UK
This solo exhibition is the premiere of Zoe Williams’ new moving image work, Sunday Fantasy. The work uses the language of fantasy to play with and subvert dominant power structures, dissecting and interrogating current representations of the erotic and viewing them through a female and queered lens.

Edinburgh Art Festival – NOW
Dates: June 1 – September 22, 2019
Venue: Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art
The fifth instalment in the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art’s dynamic three-year series of contemporary art exhibitions, NOW, is centred on a major survey of work by queer conceptual artist Anya Gallaccio, renowned for her spectacular installations and sculptures. Using all kinds of organic materials, including trees, flowers, candles, sand and ice, she creates temporary works that change over time as they are subjected to natural processes of transformation and decay. Also exploring themes of change, growth and decay, some of the other artists appearing in NOW are Charles Avery, Aurélien Froment and Roger Hiorns.

Art Night 2019 – Hannah Quinlan and Rosie Hastings performance
Dates: June 22, 2019, 7pm-12am
Venue: Walthamstow Market, London, UK
For London’s Art Night 2019, Hannah Quinlan and Rosie Hastings have been commissioned to create a musical spectacle that brings together musical genres including classical orchestral music, disco, house, high NRG and pop, into a single dramatic vision performed and centred on a Pride float as it travels up Walthamstow Market. Exploring the gay rights movement since the legalisation of homosexuality in 1967 through shifts in UK Queer music subcultures, Hope, Joy, Youth, Peace, Rest, Life, Dust, Ashes, Waste, Want, Ruin, Despair, Madness, Cunning, Folly, Words, Wigs, Rags, Sheepskin, Plunder, Precedent, Jargon, Gammon, and Spinach is both a celebration and a critique of contemporary pride culture.

Art Night 2019 – Julie Cunningham
Dates: June 22, 2019, 7pm-12am
Venue: Waltham Forest Community Hub, London, UK
Julie Cunningham is an award-winning dance artist and choreographer, formerly with the Merce Cunningham Dance Company and Michael Clark Company. Cunningham’s work explores gender and identity, and the body and its emotional states. They work between movement and text from sources ranging from popular culture to literature (including Sarah Kane’s Crave and poetry by Kate Tempest). For Art Night 2019 in London, Cunningham presents a new performance, continuing their research into the queer body. They will invite the audience into a normally private environment where they and their collaborators will be making and doing dance. Working at the boundaries between their daily, living body and their more public, dancing body, Cunningham will attempt to create a practical space for making non-sense.
Performed by: Julie Cunningham, Eleanor Perry, Chess Boughey and Harry Alexander, with live music from the musician, DJ and producer JD Samson, best known as a member of the bands Le Tigre and MEN.

Queer Frontiers – ARTIQ’s annual art exhibition in solidarity with LGBTQ+ international artists
Dates: July 3 – 10, 2019
Venue: pop-up venue, Old Compton Street, London, UK
This open-submission exhibition, run by the art consultancy ARTIQ in partnership with the insurer and patron of the arts Hiscox, will showcase work by LGBTQ+ artists and allies, selected by a panel of curators, responding to themes of diversity, inclusion, equality, creativity, optimism and kindness. The exhibition is held in conjunction with Pride London. All proceeds will be donated to the Albert Kennedy Trust and Switchboard.

Queer Spaces: London, 1980s – Today
Dates: April 2 – August 25, 2019
Venue: Whitechapel Gallery, London, UK
This one-room display considers the loss of hundreds of community venues around London through market-led redevelopment and the ensuing impact on the capital’s queer scene and population. It presents work by artists concerned with the disappearance of spaces where LGBTQ+ communities have gathered to socialise, explore their sexuality and try out new identities, including Tom Burr, Ralph Dunn, Evan Ifekoya, Hannah Quinlan & Rosie Hastings and Prem Sahib. Through case studies of iconic venues such as the Black Cap and the Royal Vauxhall Tavern, the exhibition presents rarely displayed archive material and explores the radical inventiveness, creativity and unpretentiousness inherent within London’s queer spaces.

‘Queer’ Asia 2019 Art Exhibition: The Liminal
Dates: July 15-17, 2019
Venue: Cloisters, Paul Webley Wing, SOAS University of London, UK
From rendering a previously invisible queer consciousness visible in Asia and Asian diasporas to questioning the misrepresentation of LGBTQ+ Asia in global socio-political discourses, the artwork exhibited in The Liminal reflects what is openly acknowledged, what is quietly endured, and the areas which oscillate between them. By doing so, the exhibition demonstrates that the battle for Asian LGBTQ+ rights and equality is still an ongoing process that is often overlooked. Featured Artists include Queer Habibi, Dan Vo, Jay Cabalu, Charmaine Poh, Showna Kim, Rudra Kishore Mandal, Heezy Yang, Musk Ming, Kahn J. Ryu, Charan Singh, Jamie Chi, Naruki Kukita, Alqumit Alhamad and Royal.
Curated by Rhea Tuli.

[Events: July 13-14, 2019. Artivism and artist talks, Moser Room, British Museum, London. Book a free ticket in advance as venue space is limited.]

DEAR CHRISTINE (a tribute to Christine Keeler)
Dates: June 1 – 29, 2019
Venue: Vane, Newcastle-upon-Tyne, UK
This exhibition brings together a group of renowned female artists and writers – including queer painters Roxana Halls and Sadie Lee – in a multi-media celebration of the life of English model Christine Keeler, star of the 1960s British political scandal, the Profumo affair. After Newcastle, the exhibition will tour to Swansea and London.
Curated by Fionn Wilson

Dates: June 14 – 20, 2019
Venue: The Silver Building, London, UK
This three-queer-woman show, curated by Anka Dabrowska and also featuring Stav Bee and Jeni Snell, comprises drawing, painting, sculpture, installation, photography and live performance. It intention is to activate a fresh narrative on the urban and rural (city/island) landscape, with issues surrounding identity, place and culture. Dabrowska, whose drawings explore territories both real and imagined, will create a site-specific installation focusing on the concept of shelter, as a fortress of our bodies, and extension of ourselves. This temporary, fragile structure, made out of old sculptures and objects, will get smashed up and rebuilt, raising questions about vulnerability and protection, the housing crisis, and anxiety. Bee is a multi-disciplinary visual artist, whose work deals with the ongoing themes of identity and love, the politics of the female gaze, the aesthetics of beauty, sexual identity, repetition, reflection, obsession, transformation, alchemy and magic. For CITYISLAND, Bee will continue her cerebral investigations, regarding the city as a landscape of aloneness and anonymity, darkness and light, hardship and opportunity. Snell’s practice is based on the ongoing relationship she has with the place in which she grew up and the influence that our early environment has on the formation of identity, especially the LGBTIQA identity. Snell will exhibit works from her latest solo show Achtung Baby!, in which all her works bear the titles of songs performed by homosexual activist musicians.
Curated by Anka Dabrowska
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Ulrike Ottinger. Paris Calligrammes
Dates: August 23, 2019 – October 10, 2019
Venue: Haus der Kulturen der Welt (HKW), Berlin, Germany
Opening: August 22, 2019, 19:00
In her Paris Calligrammes exhibition, Ulrike Ottinger, a German radical lesbian filmmaker, photographer and collector of worlds, takes us back to the 1960s when she lived and worked in Paris as a freelance artist. Ottinger weaves her personal memories of the Parisian Bohème and the severe social, political and cultural upheavals of the time into a cinematic ‘figural poem’. Paris Calligrammes is also the title of Ottinger’s next film.

Rencontres d’Arles 2019 – Germaine Krull & Jacques Rémy, a Voyage, Marseille-Rio 1941
Dates: July 1 – September 22, 2019
Venue: Cloître Saint-Trophime, Arles, France
André Breton, Wifredo Lam, Jacqueline Lamba, Claude Lévi-Strauss, Anna Seghers and Victor Serge are among Capitaine-Paul-Lemerle’s passengers. Their 1941 crossing from Marseille to Fort-de-France is reimagined by Adrien Bosc in his novel Capitaine. We also meet the great German photographer Germaine Krull (1897-1985) on board, sailing to the Americas, and the young filmmaker and future screenwriter Rémy Assayas, also known as Jacques Rémy. At the end of the book, Bosc meets Rémy’s son, Olivier Assayas, who shows him an album of photos taken by Krull during the journey. The photos bring the novelist’s story vividly to life. They were found loose in a drawer of the family’s country home, and curator Olivier Assayas identified and organised them. A Voyage, Marseille-Rio 1941 brings all these photographs together, most of which are previously unpublished, and exhibits them in the context of the novel based on the true story of these two travelers.
Curated by Olivier Assayas and Adrien Bosc.

Rencontres d’Arles 2019 – Variétés, An Avant-Garde Review
Dates: July 1 – September 22, 2019
Venue: Chapelle Saint-Martin-du-Méjan Chapelle Saint-Martin-du-Méjan, Arles, France
The Belgian art critic, collector and gallery owner Paul-Gustave van Hecke never ceased to promote Belgian and international avant-garde art during the interwar period. In 1927, he founded the gallery L’Époque in Bruxelles. In 1928, he launched Variétés, Revue mensuelle illustrée de l’esprit contemporain. A complete anthology of modernist photography, it featured Berenice Abbott, Florence Henri, Germaine Krull, László Moholy-Nagy and Man Ray, amongst many others. This unique collection was rediscovered by accident a few years ago and is now the focus of an exceptional historical exhibition, that the Rencontres d’Arles are happy to co-produce with the Amsab and Tijdsbeeld & Pièce Montée for their 50th edition. The exhibition is also displaying some issues of Variétés and close to 200 vintage avant-garde photographs.
Curated by Sam Stourdzé in collaboration with Ronny Gobyn and Damarice Amao

Lotte Laserstein: Face to Face
Dates: April 5 – August 12, 2019
Venue: Berlinische Galerie, Berlin, Germany
Lotte Laserstein (1898-1993) was a rising star of Weimar Berlin, but, forced to emigrate to Sweden in 1937 due to the rise of Nazism and her being ‘three-quarter Jewish’, her career was cut short, as her practice turned from avant-garde modernism to kitsch portraiture. This exhibition focuses on her early work and showcases 58 works – 48 paintings and nine drawings – by Laserstein, primarily from her heyday in Berlin. Frequently painting her close friend and favourite muse, Gertrud Rose, known as Traute, Laserstein’s works depict the ‘new woman’, androgynous and with short-cropped hair. There has been repeated speculation over a lesbian relationship between the two women, but this seems largely unfounded. Regardless, Laserstein was hugely successful in a largely male environment and used pictorial means to defy contemporary social norms about gender roles.
Curated by Elena Schroll und Alexander Eiling

I, I, I, I, I, I, I, Kathy Acker
Dates: May 1 – July 21, 2019
Venue: ICA, London, UK
Queer feminist artist Every Ocean Hughes aka Emily Roysdon is among the 40+ artists in this group exhibition dedicated to the American experimental novelist, playwright, essayist, postmodernist and sex-positive feminist writer Kathy Acker (1947–97). In the 1980s, Acker frequently formed part of the ICA programme, holding conversations with other writers, giving readings, performing with musicians, and writing the play Lulu Unchained (1985). For Acker, language was a site of contestation, both on the page and within the public speech act. She traversed the avant-gardist intersections between poetry and conceptual art of the 1970s, the linguistic deconstructions of 1980s postmodernism, and the nascent posthuman aesthetics of the 1990s. Her prolific writing developed new experimental textual methodologies, plagiarising the work of other authors, distorting language, introducing maps and diagrams, and hybridising fiction and auto-biographical reference. She further extended the space of writing to encompass the performative, through readings, plays, screenplays, and collaborations with artists and musicians. Central to both her writing and the shifting construction of her own identity were an antagonism towards social conventions, gendered power, and imperialist capitalism. This exhibition incorporates both existing materials and the work of contemporary practitioners who inhabit spaces between visual art, poetry, fiction and performance, including a collaborative investigation and production of Acker’s play Desire (1982).

Jo Spence and Oreet Ashery: Misbehaving Bodies
Dates: May 30, 2019 – January 26, 2020
Venue: Wellcome Collection, London, UK
Influential photographer Jo Spence’s (1934–92) work, created in collaboration with Terry Dennett and queer artist Rosy Martin, documents Jo Spence’s diagnosis of breast cancer and subsequent healthcare regime throughout the 1980s. The raw and confrontational photography is shown here alongside Oreet Ashery’s (b. 1966) award-winning miniseries Revisiting Genesis (2016). Ashery’s politically-engaged work explores loss and the lived experience of chronic illness in the digital era. The exhibition challenges visitors on their understanding of ‘misbehaving’ or ‘untypical’ bodies, and asks them to reflect on how illness can disrupt and shape the way one thinks about the body, family and identity.

[The copyright of the video above remains with the original holder and it is used here for the purpose of education, comparison and criticism only.]

Related Links

Stockholm – Sharon Hayes in Conversation With Emily Roysdon, video, April, 2019.
Death, digital wills and cremation jewellery – Misbehaving Bodies review by Hettie Judah, The Guardian, May, 2019.
Shu Lea Cheang’s 3x3x6 at the 2019 Venice Biennale Examines Imprisonment in the New Digital Age by Taipei Fine Arts Museum (TFAM), May, 2019.