Brighton Museum and Art Gallery launches a new programme on Thursday based around LGBTQ history and expression. EDWIN GILSON previews the work.

THE Sexual Offences Act in 1967 heralded a major step forward in gay rights, as homosexual acts in private between two man were decriminalised. So what better time to reflect on LGBTQ identity and culture than now, 50 years on from that momentous day? To mark the anniversary Brighton Museum and Art Gallery is launching a programme of exhibitions, displays and activities.

Events range from a gallery of Glyn Philpot’s work, the English painter who gradually accepted his homosexuality, to a space allowing trans people to express their identities through meaningful items. The programme is presented in conjunction with an art trail called Be Bold, a rallying call for Brighton residents to be their true selves and get involved with the more interactive parts of the museum’s season.

So much has improved in LGBTQ rights since 1967 and yet so many people within those communities still find themselves victims of prejudice and intolerance. Kelly Boddington, co-creator of Be Bold, reiterates the importance of that ruling in five decades ago.

“For those who do not recall the summer of love and who, like me, do not know nearly as much about LGBTQ history as they would like others to think, I should explain that the passing of the act was a pivotal moment for human rights in this country. It decriminalised sexual activities between consenting men – which may have actually led to an increase in arrests of gay men cavorting in groups or public spaces but was definitely a step in the right direction.

“This much extolled ‘milestone’ signified a general movement towards greater individual freedoms and a feeling that the state or church had no place in the private sex life of consenting adults.”

Boddington adds that this is an “exciting, frightening and experimental time” in relation to LGTBQ affairs. “LGBTQ people have become increasingly aware of the importance of having their histories acknowledged by wider society and museums and heritage organisations are now beginning to meet their challenge to collect, frame and interpret LGBTQ lives meaningfully. “Though there is still a lot to learn it is clear that the communities and the museum have a lot to offer each other.”

Sarah Posey, head of collections, interpretation and learning, says, “When so many people worldwide are still targeted, asserting a positive stance in representing LGBTQ lives is an important part of our work.” In that spirit, here are the upcoming exhibitions and events that Brighton Museum and Art Gallery is hosting in the months to come as it seeks to make that connection between cultural institution and LGBTQ people.

Museum of Transology

Thursday to summer 2018, Spotlight Gallery

This display began with donations from Brighton’s trans community and is now the largest collection of its kind representing trans people in the UK. Curated by E-J Scott, the exhibition intends to subvert the conception that gender is biologically determined. It is based around apparently insignificant items that take on huge personal meaning the back story is revealed; a train ticket of somebody’s journey to see their partner as a boy rather than a girl, for instance, or a tube of lipstick that represents a transition the other way. The Museum of Transology is only possible because of such donations.

Glyn Philpot

Thursday to January 2018, Fine Art Gallery

This wide-ranging display explores the artist’s life and the modernising impact he had on portrait paintings. Although Philpot converted to Catholicism he retained an interest in the male nude and portraits of young men, displaying his eventual acceptance of his homosexuality. Some of his works were considered controversial because of their explicit imagery. Many of Philpot’s paintings of people of African origin were modelled on the Jamaican Henry Thomas, the artist’s one-time lover. Philpot also had a long-term relationship with Vivian Forbes, who committed suicide one day after Philpot’s death.

Gluck: Art and Identity

Main space, November 18 to March 11, 2018

Hannah Gluckstein, aka Gluck, created expressive paintings of people, items and landscapes – and is now also recognised as a pioneer of gender fluidity. The artist adopted the name Gluck in the process of creating a masculine identity in the inter-war years. Martin Pel, curator of the display, said: “Gluck’s artistic significance has arguably been obscured in the last 50 years by the artist’s role as a figurehead and pioneer of LGBTQ lives. So with this exhibition we were keen to survey both Gluck’s personal narrative and the significance of the artworks, within the history of 20th century British art.”

Museum’s Pride float

August 5

Pride 2017 is inspired by the 1967 Act, under the title of The Summer of Love, and the Museum’s float will represent all of its five sites – from the Royal Pavilion to Preston Manor. Staff will build the float and appear on it on the day, many of them in costumes they’ve made themselves.