Session 6

Dr. Magnús Gestsson / Independent researcher and lecturer affiliated with the University of Iceland and Iceland Academy of the Arts in Reykjavík


Queer Art, Artists and Identity: Nordic and Global Contexts


The expression of homosexuality in art goes back centuries and throughout the 20th century work indicating homoeroticism was created but mainly without being defined openly as an art trend. Second wave feminism and the Stonewell Riots contributed to an increasing visibility of artists identifying openly as gay, lesbian and trans. Later the AIDS epidemic inspired artists to deal creatively with the pain hitting the gay community. However, it was not until the 1990s that galleries, museums, art schools and academics started paying attention to queer art histories. Since then the field has acquired cultural value among queer artists and academics. This session aims to examine the interrelations between the expression of queerness in art, cultural value and queer identity as a contrast to queer artists avoiding any indication of queerness in their work. It also intends to scrutinise the increasing academic and institutional interest in LGBTQIA+ artists and their art as a valid art historical entry in the face of rising queer-phobia. It discusses possible differences between the way in which queer identity was understood in modernist art as opposed to contemporary conceptualisation of the phenomena in Nordic and global contexts. Focus is laid on reception and transformations of queer art and artists within the cultural traditions and local art scenes of these geographical spaces. Furthermore, the session wishes to contrast various academic, curatorial, artistic practices and identity based experiences with theoretical positions and institutional practice to identify queerness in art and address diverse gender representation in the production, dissemination and configuration of queer art. Thus, the session wishes to locate various approaches to queer artistic expression within theoretical frameworks and institutional policies of possible marginalisation of queer artists of colour and to address gender roles and how none binary gender identity might be expressed in the work of queer artists.

Papers might address, but are not limited to questions such as:

  • What is the situation of queer art and artists within the framework of assigned gender in a binary culture?
  • How is queerness represented in modernist and contemporary art in a Nordic and global context?
  • How do institutions react to exhibition proposals from queer artists, academics and curators?
  • Artistic and intellectual context of art production and the development of queer art historical narratives.
  • Creating a cultural value for queer art in the 21st century.
  • Dynamics of gender and trans identity within contemporary art worlds.