The Institute of Sexology
20 November 2014 to 20 September 2015
Wellcome Collection, 183 Euston Road, London, NW1 2BE
Wellcome Collection will explore the most publicly discussed of private acts with The Institute of Sexology , the first UK exhibition to bring together the pioneers of the study of sex. From Alfred Kinsey's complex coded questionnaires to Samoan
jewellery to sex machines, the show investigates how the diverse research, methods and collections of sexologists have shaped our ever-evolving attitudes towards sexual behaviour and identity.
Featuring over 200 objects spanning art, rare archival material, erotica, film, photography, medical artefacts and ethnography, the exhibition moves between pathologies of perversion and contested ideas of normality as sex is observed, analysed and
questioned. This is the first exhibition in a £ 17.5million expansion of Wellcome Collection and occupies a new gallery dedicated to year-long shows. The Institute of Sexology will evolve during its run;
new commissions, live events, discussions and performances within the gallery space will animate an exhibition designed around visitor contribution and reflective personal experience. The show will form part of a Sexology Season of activity across the
The exhibition follows key sexologists including Sigmund Freud, Marie Stopes, Alfred Kinsey, Wilhelm Reich, Magnus Hirschfeld, Margaret Mead, William Masters and Virginia Johnson and the team behind the present-day National Survey of Sexual Attitudes and
Lifestyles (Natsal). It traces the experiments and studies that lifted taboos in the pursuit of truths about sex and tells the remarkable personal stories of those whose questions made it a legitimate field for discussion and study. The show features
works exploring sexual identity by artists including Zanele Muholi, John Stezaker, Sharon Hayes and Timothy Archibald. A new commission by Neil Bartlett will revisit the sex survey, celebrating and joining visitors with the hundreds of thousands of
anonymous participants whose personal accounts underpin the study of sex.
The Institute of Sexology' is framed by named sites of research from labs to living rooms. The first section, The Library , highlights the systematic archiving and accumulation central to the their craft, including objects from Henry Wellcome's
vast collection of erotica. Opening with the Nazi burning of archives amassed by Magnus Hirschfeld's Institut fu r Sexualwissenschaft in Berlin, 'The Library' explores how Hirschfeld's material on homosexuality, along with the library of sexual
histories compiled by Havelock Ellis and the forensic legal cataloguing of sexual pathologies by Richard von Krafft-Ebing were assembled squarely against prevailing social codes.
The Consulting Room brings together unlikely bedfellows in Sigmund Freud and Marie Stopes who despite marked differences of approach and interest (Stopes warned of the harmful filthiness of psychoanalysis whilst campaigning for birth
control and women's sexual rights) placed sex at the centre of their attempts to alleviate suffering and, through couch and clinic respectively, offered an intimate space of encounter which counselled sexual satisfaction as a key to human happiness. In
Freud's psychoanalytic practice and Stopes' candid advice, the exhibition finds very different and influential paths towards freedom of sexual expression.
The work of Bronislaw Malinowski and Margaret Mead amongst Trobiand and Samoan peoples offered a striking and controversial corrective to the Victorian armchair anthropology which characterised these communities as primitive savages living in thrall to
an impulsive nature. A section called The Tent explores the wide influence of Malinowski and Mead's conviction that the permissive sexual codes they encountered were an antidote to the deep-rooted anxieties attending sex in Western culture and
served to highlight its repression of sex as a culturally determined experience.
The Classroom investigates Alfred Kinsey's journey from entomologist exploring the infinite individuality of gall wasps to obsessive compiler of sexual histories -- some 18,000 by his death in 1956. With extensive material from the Kinsey archive,
the exhibition traces his revelation of sexual variety in mainstream post-war America, his lionising of data and empirical research and the explosive impact of his conclusions of sexual malleability at a time when sex was a barely mentionable subject.
The Lab points to the bespoke laboratory William Masters and Virginia Johnson secretly established at Washington University to observe and record hundreds of individuals having sex. Their measurements of real time physiology -- heart rate,
lubrication, blood pressure, brain activity, organ size - during stimulation and orgasm, established the complexity and power of sexual experience, especially amongst women, and the exhibition explores how their findings and campaigns for gendered
equality in climactic response fed into the zeitgeist of the 60's sexual revolution.