In honour of the largest collection of queer art in the UK, Elephant and curator Gemma Rolls-Bentley threw a party at Brighton Beach House to celebrate this landmark achievement and the artists behind it

It would be difficult to think of a more ideal location to launch the UK’s largest collection of queer art than Brighton, with its rich LGBTQ+ community and history. For curator Gemma Rolls-Bentley, the invitation by global head of art at Soho House Kate Bryan to curate a collection focused on queer artists for the new Brighton Beach House was a dream come true.

Looking back into the archives, she found that LGBTQ+ life in the city dates back as far as the Napoleonic War, while Brighton’s coastal location and docking point for fleets of sailors was another important factor in the proliferation of queer life here over the decades.

“There are so many unknowns about the sea,” says Rolls-Bentley. “The sea is so powerful, and can be seen in a way as a symbol of our powerlessness against nature and the natural world.” Many queer artists, she adds, “look to mythical sea creatures such as the sea witch and the mermaid, which represent alternative ways of being.”

“The name of the collection reflects the role that Brighton and others cities like it have played for queer communities as a safe haven”

The name of the collection, the Brighton beacon, is a nod to this rich maritime history. It also reflects the role that Brighton and others cities like it around the world have played for queer communities, particularly as a safe haven where they can congregate openly and without fear.

The collection includes an older generation of artists such as David Hockney, Catherine Opie, Wolfgang Tillmans and Isaac Julien, as well as younger names like Gary Wielebinski, Sin Wai Kin (Turner Prize nominee and Elephant’s current cover star), Prem Sahib and Danielle Braithwaite-Shirley.

Elephant joined forces with Rolls-Bentley to host a party on Brighton’s seafront in honour of the collection and the 50 artists within it. Non-binary performer Tom Rasmussen presented an intimate set of songs against a backdrop of the full moon, while Xzan, founder of Brighton-based queer club night Gal Pals, played on the decks to a packed dance floor until late into the night.

Gemma Rolls Bentley and Sin Wai Kin
Left to Right: Gemma Rolls-Bentley, Sin Wai Kin
Remi Peters, Gemma Rolls-Bentley, Danielle Wilde, Kate Bryan
Remi Peters, Gemma Rolls-Bentley, Danielle Wilde, Kate Bryan
Anka Dabrowska, Gemma Rolls-Bentley
Anka Dabrowska, Gemma Rolls-Bentley
Anastasiia Fedorova, Jake Grewal, Miranda Forrester, Sola Olulode
Anastasiia Fedorova, Jake Grewal, Miranda Forrester, Sola Olulode
Miles Lennox, Andre Hackett, Astrid Bunbury
Miles Lennox, Andre Hackett, Astrid Bunbury
Rosie Hastings, Gaby Sahhar, Sin Wai Kin, Hannah Quinlan
Rosie Hastings, Gaby Sahhar, Sin Wai Kin, Hannah Quinlan
Tabs Lucy, Camille Darling, Sarah Mackintosh, Anka Dabrowska
Tabs Lucy, Camille Darling, Sarah Mackintosh, Anka Dabrowska
Helen Neven, Aindrea Emelife, Rosie Hastings
Helen Neven, Aindrea Emelife, Rosie Hastings
Centre: Simon Martin, Gemma Rolls-Bentley
Centre: Simon Martin, Gemma Rolls-Bentley
Kate Bryan, Gemma Rolls-Bentley, Holly Black, Louise Benson, Emily Steer
Kate Bryan, Gemma Rolls-Bentley, Holly Black, Louise Benson, Emily Steer
Jonathan Baldock, Florence Peake, Rafał Zajko, Eve Stainton
Jonathan Baldock, Florence Peake, Rafał Zajko, Eve Stainton
Gemma Rolls-Bentley, Miles Lennox, Danielle Wilde
Gemma Rolls-Bentley, Miles Lennox, Danielle Wilde
Astrid Bunbury, Gabrielle Cooper, Hannah Philp, Tabs Lucy, Camille Darling
Astrid Bunbury, Gabrielle Cooper, Hannah Philp, Tabs Lucy, Camille Darling
Kate Bryan, Gemma Rolls-Bentley
Kate Bryan, Gemma Rolls-Bentley
Louise Benson, Holly Black, Emily Steer
Louise Benson, Holly Black, Emily Steer
All photographs by Thomas Morgan

 

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