My Dearest Sweet Love: Christopher Isherwood & Don Bachardy
Vernissage: 14.06.2019, 7pm
How did a gay partnership work when gay marriage was not even on the horizon and public acknowledgment of homosexuality was career suicide? How did a 33 year same-sex partnership work when one partner was a noticeably older, internationally acclaimed author, the other a vivacious young man still searching for his artistic identity? How did they influence each other’s art? How much of a political dimension is such a prominent queer relationship destined to have? How can privacy remain in the public eye?
These are the questions the exhibition My Dearest Sweet Love examines about the relationship between novelist Christopher Isherwood (1904-1986) and painter Don Bachardy (b. 1934). With photographs, paintings, books and film posters, the exhibition traces their life together, from moving in together in 1953 until Isherwood’s death in 1986. It also traces Isherwood’s early years in Berlin and the long process of his public coming-out: from the ‘closeted’ Goodbye to Berlin novels, on which the musical Cabaret is based, to the very ‘out’ Christopher and His Kind in 1976, which finally retells Isherwood’s Berlin years with blunt honesty.
Two originals from David Hockney
Schwules Museum presents its first exhibition dedicated to Isherwood and Bachardy after both featured prominently in Goodbye to Berlin: 100 Jahre Schwulenbewegung in 1997, at Akademie der Künste. Back then the famous 1968 David Hockney double-portrait Christopher Isherwood and Don Bachardy was shown. Now we present the 1976 lithograph from Hockney’s private collection, Don Bachardy; Christopher Isherwood, as well as Hockney’s 2018 drawing of Don Bachardy, never before exhibited in Europe.
The exhibition is a collaboration with the Christopher Isherwood Foundation. It includes original art works by Don Bachardy, namely a selection of portraits of American LGBTIQ activists from his Mariposa Series and Bachardy’s famous portraits of Christopher Isherwood. The exhibition also includes a series of male nudes, painted from live models by Don Bachardy in 2002 and 2003. There are black and white photographs of Isherwood and Bachardy’s last months together by Wayne Shimabukuro and audio stations where you can hear Simon Callow and Alan Cumming reading Isherwood and Bachardy’s love letters. There is also a short film showing Bachardy at work in his studio today. In addition, we present material from Schwules Museum’s own archive about gay life in Berlin in the “glitter and doom” Weimar years, i.e. the era when Isherwood came to Berlin to find what he later called his “sexual homeland.”
We are thankful to the following individuals and organizations for their support: Don Bachardy, David Hockney and Gregory Evans, Katherine Bucknell, Joseph Rodota, Craig Krull Gallery, Wayne Shimabukuro, Suzelle Smith and Don Howarth, Cornell University Library, Tina Mascara and Guido Santi, Kaitlin Bruce, The Wylie Agency and Xenobe Purvis.
The exhibition is curated by Kevin Clarke, Katherine Bucknell and Joe Rodota of The Christopher Isherwood Foundation and Chris Paxton (research assistance). The exhibition programming is curated by Dr. Peter Rehberg, Head of the Schwules Museum archive. Scenography: Martin Hoffmann & Jörg Krüger.
Artist Call from Schwules Museum and Instinct.Berlin
For the upcoming Fall 2019 edition of Instinct at Village, Schwules Museum and Instinct.Berlin will invite ten artists to respond to My Dearest Sweet Love – with works inspired by this exhibition, by the relationship of Isherwood and Bachardy, and by Isherwood’s years in Berlin. The selected artists will be able to produce their artworks on site in Berlin: Throughout August, the space of Village Berlin can be used as a studio/working space. From September 12 to 15, the results will be exhibited at the upcoming Instinct exhibition, titled The Cat and the Horse at Village Berlin. Artists eligible will be selected by a jury lead by Eric Lerouge (Instinct.Berlin), Peter Rehberg (Schwules Museum) and Elijah Burger (artist). The jury envisions a wide range of possible media, from painting and photography to performance and dance.