Art Matters is the podcast that brings together pop culture and art history, hosted by Ferren Gipson.

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In the first episode of the Art Matters podcast, we talk to Dr Justin Bengry about queer culture and art history. Dr Bengry is a Lecturer in Queer History at Goldsmiths, University of London and convenor of the first MA in Queer History.

2017 marked 50 years since the beginning of decriminalisation of homosexuality in the United Kingdom. It also saw Tate Britain put on a landmark exhibition, ‘Queer British Art’, looking at the impact queer culture and people have had on the art world: from Simeon Solomon through to the Bloomsbury Group, up to the work of Francis Bacon and David Hockney.

We talk about coded expressions of queer identity – from when homosexuality was still illegal through to today – artists who challenged gender norms, and how more informed attitudes towards gender and sexual identity today impact the way that we approach the discussion of art.

This episode's guest

Justin Bengry is an experienced historian, researcher and author of numerous publications in journals, edited collections and international newspapers. He has more than a decade of experience writing and speaking about gender and sexuality, social and cultural history, capitalism and consumer culture, media and travel. He is a co-founder and managing editor of the international, peer-reviewed history of sexuality blog ‘NOTCHES’.

Justin completed a PhD in History and Feminist Studies at the University of California in 2010, after which he held Postdocs at the University of Saskatchewan and McGill University. Justin was Lead Project Researcher for Historic England’s public and digital history initiative 'Pride of Place: England’s LGBTQ Heritage', and Postdoctoral Research Fellow on the AHRC-funded project 'Queer Beyond London'.

His book The Pink Pound: Capitalism and Homosexuality in Twentieth-Century Britain is under contract with the University of Chicago Press.

Dr Justin Bengry's website

Explore more

Five powerful queer stories told by portraits

Discover the stories of Radclyffe Hall, whose novel The Well of Loneliness is one of literature's most influential queer works; Vita Sackville-West, whose love affair with Violet Trefusis inspired Virginia Woolf to write Orlando; E. M. Forster, who wrote Maurice after a serendipitous caress; Vernon Lee and her tale of unrequited love; and Gluck, the artist whose name bears 'no prefix, suffix or quotes'.

The artists who confronted gender norms

‘I never set out to be controversial. To me, everything I tackled seemed to make perfect sense that it should be examined and that I should endeavor to find a form to deal with issues that were invisible.’ – Margaret Harrison. 

‘There are elements of male and female within everybody’s character’ – Allen Jones.

‘As far as males go, I only like the bulls I paint’ – Rosa Bonheur.

Listen to our other Art Matters podcast episodes