Dear Iloboyou reader are you ready to enter in contemporary art, The New Art: Drag Race? ‘It’s like entering the green room of the biggest cabaret on earth…’ is how curator Vincent Honoré begins describing the Hayward Gallery’s latest exhibition ‘Drag: Self-portraits and Body Politics’.
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The New Art works on display capture drag kings, drag queens and bio queens (usually female performance artists who adopt the style of male drag queens) in every mode, from just-off-stage exuberance to intimate, low-key New Art portraits. The linking factor, for the photographer Honoré, is how drag allows a person to ‘constantly transform’.
Drag has been used by artists to critique class, consumerism, race, colonialism, and the Aids crisis of the 1980s. Featured works in the show include ‘After Chinatown’ by Ming Wong. The project investigates the idea of Chinatown in 40s cinema and what it symbolized for white filmmakers.
But along with the political dimension, the photography on display have been chosen for their artistic qualities. From the sugar-sweet but striking image of a drag queen looking like the perfect ice goddess, captured by Victoria Sin, to the strong monochrome self-portrait by Samuel Fosso, they’re here because they’re art.
Honoré mentions the rise in the mainstream popularity of drag thanks to ‘RuPaul’s Drag Race’ and he’s not wrong. But the show aims to be as much about the history of drag and modern art as it is about recent exposure.