All eyes were on the Metropolitan Museum of Art for the Met Gala 2015 earlier this month as Sarah Jessica Parker, Rihanna, Cher and Beyonce took to the red carpet with some remarkable looks embodying the theme, China: Through the Looking Glass.
The Anna Wintour Costume Center’s highly anticipated exhibition of the same name, China: Through the Looking Glass, has many fashion fans excited, but the museum’s permanent collection houses some treasures that most people overlook. Visitors to the Met often check out the special exhibitions or go for a speedy tour attempting to hit all the highlights.
And while the Met is largely considered a “conservative institution,” historian Andrew Lear has discovered the gay nooks, crannies, and marble curves peeking out throughout the collection. Now, through Lear’s Oscar Wilde Tour, visitors can explore the sprawling museum through a queer lens.
Our small group ventured to the Museum’s collection of Greek and Roman art first. The collection comprises of more than seventeen thousand works ranging from the Neolithic period to the time of the Roman emperor Constantine’s conversion to Christianity in A.D. 312. Lear led us from the marble kouros to erotic Athenian vase paintings, to an extensive analysis on the sculpted bust of Antinous, the lover of Roman Emperor Hadrian. After we had our fix of the Greeks & Romans we ventured into the Melanesia Gallery, where Lear instructed us to look up to take in the surprising collection of ancestor poles from New Guinea. These bis poles are some of the most spectacular sculptures of the Asmat people, phallic in nature, and depicting male initiation and same sex rites of passage.
Lear weaves his guests in and out of decadent galleries and stops to point out significant gems, like Picasso’s “Gertrude Stein” and Michelangelo Buonarroti’s “Young Archer”. Upstairs, Rodin’s handsome “The Vanquished” sculpture caught our eye on the way to the discreet and overtly homosexual depictions of Renaissance and more modern lovers.
The tour is equally informative for those new to the Met’s collection as it is for the culture hounds looking for a closer look at just what makes this glorious museum uniquely homoerotic.
“It’s all part of the hidden gay story in one of the great museums of the world, which you’ll never look at the same way again,” Lear says.
Check out more pictures from our tour here.