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Winckelmann – The Divine Sex

16. June 2017 – 9. October 2017

An exhibition commemorating the 300th Birthday of Johann Joachim Winckelmann (1717-1768). Curated by Dr. Wolfgang Cortjaens.

Exhibition Opening on June 15th at 7 pm.

Johann Joachim Winckelmann (Birth in Stendal in 1717, death in 1768 in Triest, Italy) is heralded as the founder of modern archaeology and art. His multivolume work, History of Ancient Art (1764), was an international bestseller and translated into several languages. Today it is still regarded as the basis and standard work of art history. Although he came from a commonor background, his scholarly journey led him to Halle, Jena, Dresden and onward to Italy. It was here he defined his new ‘Canon of Beauty’ under the influence of the many artistic monuments and sculptures of Greek and Roman antiquity. This would set the standards for styled critique during future periods of art.

Almost as influential as the works he produced, was the man clouded in secrecy, Winckelmann himself. His thinly veiled homosexuality, which has been mentioned by contemporaries such as Casanova, Herder, and Goethe, as well as the mysterious circumstances of his assassination in 1768, have always been discreetly downplayed by the predominantly heteronormative Winckelmann research. That a homosexual man of all people would go on to definitively redefine the canon of art history for future generations, and at the same time developed in his writings a new technique of camouflage does not lack irony. This was the occasion for the Gay Museum * has taken this occasion to organize a memorial exhibition on the life and work of Winckelmann in commemoration of his 300th birthday, and to specifically question the aspect of his sexual orientation against the background of biography and writings.

The exhibition in the Gay Museum* carries the intentionally ambiguous title Winckelmann – The Divine Sex. The focus is on the antiquity reception of the scholar. Using over 100 sculptures and plaster casts, paintings, drawings, engravings and prints from the 18th and 19th centuries, Winckelmann’s discourse on the ‘Canon of the Beautiful’ is to be reconstructed in the Gay Museum*. At the same time, occupying ourselves with and speaking about art always seems to be a possibility, if not an essential element of the sublimation of erotic desire. The final point of the exhibition is around 1850, when Winckelmann’s era entered into a universal historical interpretation of style sequences an art history finally established itself as an academic discipline.

A secondary aspect of the exhibition highlights Cultural History: 18th century Italy is looked at as a long desired destination for homosexual travelers and art collectors. The historical conditions and boundaries of living that differed from the social norms around 1800 are discussed, as well as the influence of Winckelmann’s aesthetic concept on the training of artists and academics.

With the Klassik Stiftung Weimar, which is also presenting an exhibition in the Neues Museum Weimar entitled, Winckelmann – Moderne Antike (7.4.-2.7. 2017), the Gay Museum* is working in cooperation in areas of education, public relations, and marketing. Weimar has supported the Berlin exhibit as a lender. Further high-quality loans to appear in this exhibition include those from the Alte Nationalgalerie of the Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, the Staatsbibliothek zu Berlin, the German Historical Museum, the Lindenau- Museum Altenburg, as well as from several private collections.


There is an exhibition catalog which will also give an overview of the many historical objects of the Schwules Museum*, particularly from the Slg Sternweiler.