Beardsley at Tate Britain

 

 

IMG_9755The queerest show currently on in London is the Aubrey Beardsley at Tate Britain. And he´s got a lot of competition: Tom of Finland at House of Illustrations; Warhol at Tate Modern; Masculinities at the Barbican. Beardley´s work includes beautiful innovative drawings, illustrations, graphic design, erotica.  His work is refined and artificial, irreverent and playful, erotic and grotesque. The masculinities on display are often ridiculous, even, or particularly, at their most phallic. The genders, non-conforming. The influences ranging from Russia to Japan. The friendships include Wilde, Burne-Jones, Arthur Symons, W.B. Yeats. It´s extraordinary to think his career only spanned seven years. He died of consumption at the age of only twenty-five but his influence is extensive and wide-ranging: you´ve seen it even without knowing it (The Beatles´Revolver album). I first came across his work when Susan Sontag referred to it as an exemplar of camp in her famous essay. It is so  much more than that. Beardsley is a key visual signifier of fin-de-siècle culture in Britain and to us now queer avant-la-lèttre, an ancestor to many queer currents.

Josè Arroyo