On Timeless Masculinities


Sunil Gupta, Untitled 22 from the series Christopher Street, 1976

“Masculinities: Liberation through Photography” is a fascinating group exhibition showing now in London’s Barbican Centre. The exhibition explores how masculinity is experienced, performed, coded and socially constructed as expressed and documented through photography and film from the 1960s to the present day.

Installation view (Photo by Tristan Fewings/Getty Images for Barbican Art Gallery)

The exhibition brings together over 300 works by over 50 pioneering international artists, photographers and filmmakers such as Richard Avedon, Peter Hujar, Isaac Julien, Rotimi Fani-Kayode, Robert Mapplethorpe, Annette Messager and Catherine Opie to show how photography and film have been central to the way masculinities are imagined and understood in contemporary culture.

Installation view (Photo by Tristan Fewings/Getty Images for Barbican Art Gallery)

With ideas around masculinity undergoing a global crisis and terms such as ‘toxic’ and ‘fragile’ masculinity filling endless column inches, the exhibition surveys the representation of masculinity in all its myriad forms, rife with contradiction and complexity. Presented across six sections by over 50 international artists to explore the expansive nature of the subject, the exhibition touches on themes of queer identity, the black body, power and patriarchy, female perceptions of men, hypermasculine stereotypes, fatherhood and family. The works in the show present masculinity as an unfixed performative identity shaped by cultural and social forces.

Peter Hujar, David Brintzenhofe Applying Makeup (II), 1982
Karen Knorr, Newspapers are no longer ironed, Coins no longer boiled So far have Standards fallen from the series Gentlemen, 1981-83.tif
Hal Fischer, Street Fashion Jock from the series Gay Semiotics
Thomas Dworzak, Taliban portrait. Kandahar, Afghanistan. 2002
Karlheinz Weinberger, Horseshoe Buckle, 1962
Catherine Opie, Rusty, 2008

The exhibition will be on display at Les Rencontres de la Photographie, Arles from 29 June - 20 September 2020 and Gropius-Bau, Berlin from 16 October 2020 until 10 January 2021.