Celebrate LGBT+ History Month with museums and galleries

Published 1 February 2022

Exploring global activism and creative expression, museums and galleries demonstrate how art is a powerful tool for change this LGBT+ History Month.

Derek Jarman, The Garden (film still), 1990. Derek Jarman: Protest! at Manchester Art Gallery. Photo: Liam Daniel, courtesy & © Basilisk Communications

This year’s month-long observance of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender history centres on the theme of ‘politics in art’. Inspired by the popular slogan from the early gay rights movement, ‘the personal is political’, this year’s celebration uses personal approaches and responses to art to explore LGBTQ+ lives.

Below you'll find a selection of exhibitions and events where you can discover stories of liberation and community around the globe, learn about the history of the gay rights movement and related civil rights movements, and discover brilliant queer art and culture.

From a retrospective of iconoclast filmmaker and activist Derek Jarman in Manchester, to the powerful archive of San Francisco photographer Phyllis Christopher in Gateshead, there are so many incredible exhibitions and events to immerse yourself in.

Discover art and activism

Phyllis Christopher, Dyke March, San Francisco, CA, 1999

EXHIBITION: Phyllis Christopher: Contacts
BALTIC Centre for Contemporary Art, Gateshead
Until 20 March 2022
Free to all, 10% off in shop with National Art Pass

Known for her groundbreaking work documenting lesbian communities in San Francisco, Phyllis Christopher was particularly prominent in the 1990s, when the HIV and AIDS crisis dominated the headlines and gentrification was wreaking havoc in San Francisco communities.

Christopher carefully navigates the relationship between photographer and subject, investigating how photography plays a vital role in the visibility of lesbian lives. Images of sexual intimacy and protest dominate her work, addressing the absence of lesbian faces and voices in history.

EVENT: Queer Creatives: Art and Activism
Museum of Liverpool
19 February 2022, 1pm, free

This event is a response to a number of homophobic and transphobic attacks in the city of Liverpool. When a public work of art by Ben Youdan that read ‘Queer with no fear’, which itself was made to protest against homophobia in the city, was torn down, the LGBTQ+ community responded by reproducing the work and distributing it throughout the city.

This extraordinary example of grassroots activism will be discussed by the creatives involved, exploring how they use art to raise awareness, challenge important issues and champion equality.

EXHIBITION: Derek Jarman: Protest!
Manchester Art Gallery
Until 10 April 2022
Free to all, 10% off in shop with National Art Pass

Filmmaker, artist and activist Derek Jarman was a powerful voice in the campaign for gay rights. Like Phyllis Christopher, he was at the height of his career during the HIV and AIDS crisis, using his platform to challenge media perceptions and discriminatory government policy. He was one of only a few public figures in the 1980s to state he was living with HIV, and his experiences inspired his monumental ‘slogan paintings’, many of which feature prominently in this exhibition.

Also on display are works made across Jarman’s career, from early self-portraits to celebrated films, many of which have never been seen in public before.

Explore history and community

‘Trans Happiness is Real’ wall hanging. Beyond the Binary at Pitt Rivers Museum, © Pitt Rivers Museum, University of Oxford

EXHIBITION: Beyond the Binary: Gender, Sexuality, Power
Pitt Rivers Museum, Oxford
Until 8 March 2022
Free to all, 10% off in shop with National Art Pass

This exhibition brings together a varied collection of objects from around the globe, some dating back to the ancient world. These intriguing artefacts amplify the stories of LGBTQ+ people that have been underrepresented and oppressed in history.

Explore the binaries imposed on society that have restricted people’s lives for generations and uncover queer stories.

EXHIBITION: Queer the Pier
Brighton Museum
Until March 2023
Free entry with National Art Pass

This community-curated display celebrates the lives of queer writers, artists, performers, activists and local Brighton residents who have contributed to the colourful history of the trendy seaside town.

Highlights include campaign badges worn on demonstrations in the 1980s, parts of a historic carousel and a vintage typewriter belonging to the ‘Godfather of Gay Journalism’, Peter Burton.

Experience museum collections through a queer lens

The Townley Discobolus: marble statue of an athlete stooping to throw the discus. One of several Roman copies made of a lost bronze original made in the 5th century BC by the sculptor Myron © The Trustees of the British Museum

ONLINE EVENT: Queer Eye for the Museum Guide
22 February 2022, 6.30pm, free

Explore how LGBTQ+ communities have subverted societal norms with humour and irony. Join a group of artists, academics and activists on a tour of Royal Museums Greenwich’s collections, applying LGBTQ+ histories and stories to objects on display.

EVENT: Desire, love, identity: An LGBTQ tour of the British Museum
The British Museum, London
4, 12 & 20 February 2022, 4 March 2022, 2.30pm

From contemporary creations to ancient artefacts, explore some of the British Museum’s most famous works of art with LGBTQ+ connections. A team of volunteers will lead you through the extensive collections with a focus on objects linked to themes of desire, love and identity.

Access the full calendar of events and an abundance of resources via the LGBT+ History Month official website.

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