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Image for Ars Homo Erotica exhibition shakes up Poland (8 images)

Ars Homo Erotica exhibition shakes up Poland (8 images)

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The national museum of Warsaw hosts the first exhibition depicting homosexual themes in eastern Europe between 11 June until 5 September; the Polish capital is renowned for its conservative and sometimes homophobic politics. On 17 July, the parade hits a Warsaw already galvanised by the debate on transgender and homosexuality

'Entropa', David Cerny (2009)

The Muzeum Narodowe w Warszawie exhibition starts in the main hall of the national museum with part of a controversial piece by David Cerny. The Czech sculptor notoriously made this piece to be exposed at the European commission in Brussels in 2009, to mark the Czech Republic's six-month presidency of the European Union. Religion and a struggle with homosexuality lies against a backdrop of a rural culture, representing a stereotypical and polemic view of Poland

'Queering of the collection'

The exhibition is a combination of contemporary and commissioned pieces, and items from the permanent collection too. Curator Pawel Leskowicz conceived his project as a 'queering of the collection'

Portrait of two women (XIXe siècle), Tanja Ostojic and Marina Grzinic: Politics of Queer Curatorial Positions (2003)

Under new museum director Piotr Piotrowski, the innovative idea consists in showing new pieces on homosexuality alongside classical elements of the museum’s collection. This shows that homoeroticism is not a recent phenomenon, but has always occupied an important place in art. Warsaw’s current exhibition is one of very few examples of this concept – another one is Stockholm’s national museum, which presented a similar project in 2008

Croatian anti-homophobia campaign (L), 'Let them See Us Poland' (Karolina Bregula, 2003)

The show has an explicitly political mission. Two public anti-homophobia campaigns from the noughties in eastern Europe highlight that the struggle against discrimination aimed at homosexuals is a very live one. Indeed, the Polish posters were often vandalised during the advocacy movement

Kissing Policemen (Blue Noses, 2005)

The political dimension resonates loudly here too. Two uniformed Russian soldiers kiss, reminding the viewer of the difficult living conditions of gay community in contemporary Russia

Analysis of Beauty (Anastasia Mikhno, 2007-2008)

The exhibition goes on to explore the theme of androgyny as a reflection on the normativity of gender. Ars Homo Erotica does not only show homosexuality understood narrowly, but also sexual identities that do not conform to the standard conception of gender roles

Untitled 2 (Wojciech Cwiertniewicz, 2005)

The more explicit works on show flirt with pornography. The curator’s wish was to confront the viewer to what he is often encouraged to shy away from

La Sorciere (Paulus and Svajove Stanikas, 2001)

A section of the most explicit pieces are dedicated to representations of lesbian sexuality. Female homosexuality is less commonly depicted in art and tends to shock audiences more. Reminiscent of Courbet’s Origin of the World ('L'Origine du monde', 1866), this close-up of female genitalia is one of the largest pieces in the exhibition. The exhibition is taking place as part of Poland’s gay pride celebrations