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Artist at Large: Six Exhibitions to see in London during Pride Month 2024

Award-winning artist James Robert Morrison takes us on a tour of exhibitions to see in London during Pride Month 2024.

By James Robert Morrison | 25 Jun 2024

Taking over calendars every June, Pride Month is a vibrant and inclusive celebration that honours the LGBTQIA+ community, their history, achievements, and ongoing struggle for equality. This year, the parade in London takes place on Saturday 29th June. Attracting an estimated 1.5 million visitors each year, it’s one of the loudest and proudest parties around.

Artist at Large: Six Exhibitions to see in London during Pride Month 2024
Ghost Within Me # 24 by article author James Robert Morrison (2022, embroidery on erased image from a magazine, 27.6 x 20.3 cm)

If big crowds and loud parties aren’t your thing, there are a variety of other activities and events you can take part in to celebrate, and maybe I can help with that -  here are my recommendations for some of the best exhibitions and cultural events that London has to offer during Pride Month 2024.

Fragile Beauty: Photographs from the Sir Elton John and David Furnish Collection

A major exhibition of modern and contemporary photography that showcases over 300 rare prints from 140 photographers. The exhibited photographs (many on public display for the first time) are era-defining images which explore the connection between strength and vulnerability inherent in the human condition. Whilst universally compelling, the images are intensely personal for Elton and David: these are photographs from their own home. 

There are three American photographers included in this show whose work I want to highlight–mainly because they have influenced my practice, but also because I love their work! They are linked to one another–not by circumstance, style or acquaintance, but by how each of them has used aspects of their personal life as subject matter.

Artist at Large: Six Exhibitions to see in London during Pride Month 2024
Candy Darling on her Deathbed by Peter Hujar, 1974 (Photo: © 2023 The Peter Hujar Archive, LLC / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York)

Peter Hujar’s unflinching portrait Candy Darling on Her Deathbed depicts the American transgender actress in her hospital bed dying of lymphoma. She was also an Andy Warhol superstar, a muse for The Velvet Underground, and this image was the album cover for I Am a Bird Now, Antony and the Johnsons 2025 Mercury Prize-winning album. 

Artist at Large: Six Exhibitions to see in London during Pride Month 2024
Image: Inside the 'Fragile Beauty: Photographs from the Sir Elton John and David Furnish Collection' exhibition. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London

There are eleven Robert Mapplethorpe photographs on display in this exhibition, including his iconic horned self-portrait taken in 1985. In addition, Nan Goldin’s Thanksgiving series: a 149-image series, shown in its entirety in the exhibition, documents events from 1973 to 1999 and presents some of the most intimate and emotional moments in Goldin and her community’s lives, from the euphoric to the sensual to the distressing. Displayed floor to ceiling, the photographs become an intense homage both to the friendships that survived those twenty-six years and to the friends that she lost.

18 May 2024 - 5 January 2025 | V&A | South Kensington SW7 2RL

Zanele Muholi

Zanele Muholi came to prominence in the early 2000s with photographs that told the stories of Black lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, queer and intersex lives in South Africa. Over 300 photographs are brought together in this exhibition to showcase the breadth of Muholi’s career to date, from their very first body of work to their latest and ongoing series. These images challenge dominant ideologies and present the participants in their photographs as empowered individuals superbly existing in the face of prejudice, intolerance, and often violence. 

Artist at Large: Six Exhibitions to see in London during Pride Month 2024
Zanele Muholi's Qiniso, The Sails, Durban, 2019 © Zanele Muholi Courtesy of the Artist and Yancey Richardson, New York

This is the first major UK survey of the artist’s work. The showcase originally opened at Tate Modern in 2020 but was cut short by the national lockdown. Luckily, visitors now have the opportunity to see a revised and expanded version of the exhibition. Every photographic work (the intimate and direct self-portraits, in particular) in this show is exquisite and has been shot with a flash of technical brilliance, confirming Muholi’s place as one of today’s leading photographic artists.  

6 June 2024 - 26 January 2025 | Tate Modern | Bankside SE1 9TG

Beryl Cook / Tom of Finland

This exhibition brings the work of two cultural icons, Beryl Cook and Tom of Finland, together for the very first time. And, I must admit, when I first heard about this I wasn’t sure how the unlikely pairing would work. However, Studio Voltaire has done a stellar job of putting together a presentation that not only provides a significant refocus but reveals interconnected ideas around gender, sexuality, taste, and class. Further, the show demonstrates how both artists have a distinct and coherent way of hyper-realising the body in images that fundamentally celebrate pleasure and deny shame. 

Artist at Large: Six Exhibitions to see in London during Pride Month 2024
Left: Beryl Cook's Lady of Marseille | Right: Tom of Finland's Untitled, both courtesy of House of Voltaire

15 May - 25 August 2024 | Studio Voltaire | Clapham SW4 7JR

The Last Caravaggio

Although he can't definitively be described as gay, Caravaggio is often described as a gay icon. No such term existed back in the 16th and 17th centuries when the Italian artist spent his years painting the male body in the sexiest light possible. Considering that fascination, and his obsession with John the Baptist, I think it would be fair to assume that Caravaggio was, at the very least, curious… 

Artist at Large: Six Exhibitions to see in London during Pride Month 2024
Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio, 'The Martyrdom of Saint Ursula', 1610. Intesa Sanpaolo Collection. Gallerie d’Italia - Napoli © Archivio Patrimonio Artistico Intesa Sanpaolo / foto Luciano Pedicini, Napoli

In this new exhibition, the National Gallery displays Caravaggio’s last painting The Martyrdom of Saint Ursula (which, by the way, has not been seen in the UK for nearly 20 years!) alongside another late work by the artist from the National Gallery’s own Collection, Salome receives the Head of John the Baptist. Interestingly, The Martyrdom of Saint Ursula was only reattributed to Caravaggio in 1980 following the discovery of an archival letter (displayed in the exhibition and shown in the UK for the first time) describing its commission. This exhibition presents a rare opportunity to contemplate and explore these two late masterpieces by Caravaggio, consider the representation of violence in his work, and reflect on violence in our time.

18 April - 21 July 2024 | The National Gallery | Trafalgar Square WC2N 5DN

Ajamu X: A Sensual Chorus of Gestures

Ajamu X is an artist, curator, archivist, and activist who is known for his fine art photography exploring same-sex desire and the black male body. His work as an archivist and activist is equally well known for documenting the lives and experiences of the black LGBTQ+ community. 

Artist at Large: Six Exhibitions to see in London during Pride Month 2024
Courtesy of Ajamu X and Amanda Wilkinson, London

I can clearly remember the first Ajamu X photographs I encountered in real life: Cock in Glove from 1993 and Feet of Duane Cyrus from 2015, both shown at Hayward Gallery’s Kiss My Genders exhibition in 2019. I remember feeling struck by how both images felt incredibly masculine and hard and yet feminine and soft. His solo show Ajamu: The Patron Saint of Darkrooms at Autograph was one of the best exhibitions I went to see last year. The more intimate photography displayed inside an imagined darkroom, coated in thick, strong-smelling latex, was an experience. 

Artist at Large: Six Exhibitions to see in London during Pride Month 2024
Courtesy of Ajamu X and Amanda Wilkinson, London

A few weeks ago, I was delighted to discover he has a new show opening with Amanda Wilkinson Gallery (who also represents the estate of Derek Jarman). This new group of work celebrates bodies and the beauty and joy of the erotic. These platinum prints are renowned for their expanded tonal range, three-dimensionality, and uniquely luminous quality. The images are printed on Tosa Washi Japanese-made paper, a precise and delicate choice that reflects the sensual material, form and aesthetics of analogue photography. The particularities of the image-making process are frequently overlooked in the work of black and LGBTQ+ photographers, largely appraised for the subject matter and sociopolitical context instead. This new body of work addresses this imbalance. 

8 June - 3 August 2024 | Amanda Wilkinson Gallery | Farringdon EC1M 3JB

Nel Burke: Rosebud Collage Works

Nel Burke has been collaging since 1989 when she was a student of Fine Art at Central St Martins.  She always liked cutting out and cutting up, and following art school, slowly realised that collage was her main technique for making art. The analogue process is crucial to Nel; she wants to see the cuts, the textures, and the mistakes. Despite finding collage challenging, the artist finds the process endlessly interesting, especially when unexpected things happen. Nel values the materials used in her work, primarily recycling old books, papers, and even items from the wastepaper basket, with the only exceptions being occasional purchases of cartridge paper, gummed strips, and glue.

Artist at Large: Six Exhibitions to see in London during Pride Month 2024
Courtesy of the artist © Nel Burke 

 

Collage is like poetry, you can bring all kinds of elements together and the art is to make them speak to each other.” - Nel Burke

 

Artist at Large: Six Exhibitions to see in London during Pride Month 2024
Courtesy of the artist © Nel Burke 

In this solo show, Nel will be presenting a recent series where the vulva takes centre stage, each one meticulously constructed as a collage and then mounted on a piece of crisp white cartridge paper. The Rosebuds - a euphemism for female genitalia - are composed of garments, robes and drapes (with the odd hand peeking out here and there) cut from the pages of books on medieval religious art. Nel’s vulva collages are rich and complex works, assembled so skillfully that it seems as if the pieces once existed together as one, became separated over time, and were once again painstakingly reunited by Nel. I think they’re fantastic. 

22 June - 13 July 2024 | Parlour Gallery | Deptford SE8 4AU

Pride Month Cultural Events in London & Online

LGBTQIA+ Museum & Gallery Tours

In 2015, the V&A became the first major museum in London to add a guided LGBTQ+ tour to its permanent schedule. These tours were, and still are, intended to give a greater sense of identity and ownership to LGBTQ+ visitors and then slowly create interest amongst others before being accepted into the mainstream. I think it’s fair to say that almost 10 years later, expectations have been exceeded! Today, it would prove much more difficult to find a museum or gallery that doesn’t provide an LGBTQIA+ tour of their collection. I think this is what they call progress.  

Artist at Large: Six Exhibitions to see in London during Pride Month 2024
There is never more than a fag paper between them - Luca and Finn by James Robert Morrison (2024, pencil on fag (cigarette) papers, 16 x 28.2 cm)

Film and Cinema

Journey across all six continents through 1980s queer cinema from East & West Germany, Scandinavia, the Soviet Union, the USA, Brazil, Japan, South Africa, and New Zealand, showing LGBTQ+ lives on the edge of extraordinary change.

Queer 80s: Cinema on the brink of global change at the Barbican

Artist at Large: Six Exhibitions to see in London during Pride Month 2024
My Brazil by Joanne Pilarczyk (2023, oil, acrylic and spray paint on canvas, 120 x 100 x 3 cm)

Online Events

An online talk celebrating the lives and work of some of the LGBTQ+ figures represented within the Royal Collection.

Pride 2024: LGBTQ+ in The Royal Collection (Online Talk)

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