The Kinsey Institute and the World Erotic Art Museum (WEAM) present “Protected Beauty,” an examination of controversial ideas about masculine beauty and sexuality in art, on view at WEAM in Miami Beach, Florida through March 1st, 2017.
Co-curated by Rebecca Fasman, Kinsey Institute manager of traveling exhibitions, and WEAM Director Helmut Schuster, the exhibition features photographs, prints, drawings and paintings created between 1890 and 1982 by well-known artists including Robert Mapplethorpe, Paul Cadmus, Andrey Avinoff, Michael Miksche, George Platt Lynes, Wilhelm von Gloeden, Pavel Tchelitchew and Marcel Vertes – gay male artists whose work had been collected by the Kinsey Institute. This is the first public exhibition of this work.
“All of these pieces in the exhibition represent a different perspective on what defines masculine beauty,” said Rebecca Fasman. “Together, they create a spectrum of ideas that, at the time they were created, were too controversial to appear in mainstream art museums. The Kinsey Institute has preserved these artistic legacies for almost 70 years.”
When Alfred Kinsey began his collection in 1947, it was a progressive statement. Although the desirability of the female body often appeared as a subject of art, mainstream artists hesitated to objectify the male body in the same way. Even beyond the 1960s, many gay male artists, in an act of self-preservation, did not publicly self-identify as being gay, instead creating different bodies of work – one for the public and one for more private audiences.
“Because of overarching societal mores, the art world shunning gay artists, and the very real possibility of being fined and/or imprisoned under strict obscenity laws, the depiction of men as beautiful and desirable was nearly impossible to present to the public for a very long time,” said Fasman. “Many of the works in this exhibition came to the Kinsey Institute’s collection at a time when there were no other repositories that would accept work that presented male beauty outside of societally-accepted contexts.”
The work showcased in “Protected Beauty” is significant, not only for its nontraditional representation of men, but also for the dedication of Alfred Kinsey and the Kinsey Institute to accept and protect these artistic legacies. This exhibition highlights the historical preservation aspect of the Kinsey’s Institute’s mission, while also creating scholarship around the concept of masculine beauty.
“This show is WEAM’s artistic and political statement at a time when intolerance and state repressions grow all over the world,” said Helmut Schuster.
The documentary “Odd Winged Angel,” produced by Nina Zaretskaya about artist Pavel Tchelitchew, is being shown in conjunction with the exhibition.
WEAM is the nation’s sole fine erotic art museum and is based on the private collection of founder Naomi Wilzig, who died in 2015. Naomi Wilzig established her Miami Museum with a similar intention, she explained that she wanted to evoke the sensual experience of the pleasure and pain of love, and also wanted to send a message of tolerance in acknowledgment of the community and diversity of mankind.
Wilzig’s legacy of erotic art will be available for public viewing through March 1st, 2017, along with “Protected Beauty.” At that time, WEAM’s collection will go on loan to Humboldt University in Germany for five years. The loan of this unique collection aims, at least in part, to replace the lost collection of the Jewish sexologist Magnus Hirschfeld (1868-1935), which was housed at his Institute of Sexual Research in Berlin before it was destroyed by the Nazis in 1933. This is an opportune time to view this highly unusual and rare collection before the Museum goes dormant.