I’ve popped along to Bath’s Holburne Museum many times to do interviews about up-and-coming exhibitions – but it’s usually when the gallery is hung and ready to go.
Today was different. Outside the museum – glorious sunshine. Inside – in the top floor exhibition space – museum staff were still hanging and lighting the contents of this autumn’s unique show.
At the same time, art critics – down from London – were also milling around reviewing what they will no doubt be writing about on their train journey back home.
This show – which opens to the public on Friday – is devoted to one of the giants of Victorian art and is the first exhibition dedicated to Dante Gabriel Rossetti’s portraits.
He was one of the founder members of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood – one of the most eminent artistic movements of the Victorian era.
I managed to grab a quick word with Holburne Director, Chris Stephens, to find out more.
To accompany its major new exhibition, the Holburne is staging a display of photographs by Sunil Gupta that explore the legacy of the Pre-Raphaelites and their influence on contemporary art.
In 2008, London-based artist and photographer Sunil Gupta (b.1953, New Delhi) was commissioned by Autograph gallery in London, to produce a body of work connected to LGBTQI+ rights in India.
The resulting series of ten photographs referenced the struggle against Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code. Instituted during British rule in the 1860s, it criminalised gay sex between consenting adults and remained in place until it was finally repealed by the Supreme Court of India in September 2018.
Gupta’s photographs allude to works by members of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, an artistic movement founded in 1848, only a few years before Section 377 was introduced. He says: “I was struck first by the vividness of the [paintings’] colours and then by the ambivalent sexuality of their subject matter.”
Inspired by the Tate’s collection, Gupta invited friends and fellow activists to model for him and re-enact the original works; at the time their involvement constituted an act of resistance, courage, and commitment, much like their UK counterparts who campaigned against Section 28 (in effect between 1988 and 2003 in England and Wales).
Check out www.holburne.org for further information