Sandy Nairne: They don't begin and end with Kylie Minogue and Judy Garland

Share
Related Topics

This year is the 40th anniversary of the Stonewall riots in New York – a marker for many in the gay community in terms of resistance and overcoming the negative attitudes and discrimination that gay people have experienced for so long. But what we wanted to say with this exhibition is that while it is an important anniversary, it is a very good moment to celebrate the diversity of the achievements of gay people over these years. The way in which we wanted to stage the exhibition was not simply to follow a set-piece idea of what other people might think were the "classic" gay icons, but instead to invite a number of distinguished figures, from many different backgrounds and places, to become our selectors and to ask "Who is it that is iconic for you?" The selectors have interpreted what "iconic" means in very different ways. But centrally there is a strong sense of inspiration. Of course, there is a crossover with the broader themes of equality, tackling discrimination and finding ways to overcome it.

I think it would have been quite wrong to limit the icons to those who are themselves gay. I admit there is a certain ambiguity in the exhibition's title, but I think this is a very creative ambiguity which opens up questions about what being gay means and also questions what "iconic" might mean.

The gallery has got nothing against the classic Judy Garland and Kylie Minogue figures – such images appear in the book we are publishing with the show, where Richard Dyer examines the stereotypes within the terminology of gay icons. But for the exhibition itself we wanted to focus on those who were inspirational for the selectors. The fact that the selectors are themselves gay doesn't mean they only identify with other gay figures.

I raised the idea for the show with the gallery's trustees two years ago. Everyone felt it was consistent with our exhibitions programme. If it is bold, I hope it is bold in a fascinating and exciting way and that it will draw visitors into the stories told through the portraits. There are such good stories to tell, and many more will be revealed nearer the July opening.

Sandy Nairne is the director of the National Portrait Gallery

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Cover Supervisor

£75 - £90 per day + negotiable: Randstad Education Group: Are you a cover supe...

Marketing Manager - Leicestershire - £35,000

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager (CIM, B2B, MS Offi...

Marketing Executive (B2B and B2C) - Rugby, Warwickshire

£22000 - £25000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A highly successful organisation wit...

SEN Coordinator + Teacher (SENCO)

£1 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Job Purpose To work closely with the he...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Piper Ryan Randall leads a pro-Scottish independence rally in the suburbs of Edinburgh  

i Editor's Letter: Britain survives, but change is afoot

Oliver Duff Oliver Duff
Some believe that David Cameron is to blame for allowing Alex Salmond a referendum  

Scottish referendum: So how about the English now being given a chance to split from England?

Mark Steel
Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam