Headlines like “The Queer Artist Making XYZ” are now so commonplace that they’ve become clichéd, while Twitter users will often showcase their work only after explaining where they fall on the Kinsey scale first – “I am a bisexual artist, please support my Etsy shop,” etc. As worthwhile as this sort of thing may have once been, it tends to reduce the artwork being produced by LGBTQ+ artists to, well, artwork being produced by LGBTQ+ artists… without really challenging the art world’s cishetero allegiances. It makes projects like Queer Direct – one of the UK's first contemporary arts platform dedicated to raising the profile of queer art while breaking down institutionalised binaries – all the more important.
First established by artist Gaby Sahhar, Queer Direct is a support network, curatorial platform, arts programme, and gallery, which spotlights young painters, poets, filmmakers, and performers. Since its inception in 2017, Sahhar has collaborated with the Tate, Sadie Coles, and Somerset House, boosting the profiles of Kai-Isaiah Jamal, Stephen Isaac-Wilson, and Tanaka Fuego, among others. Before Queer Direct came along, “there was also no dedicated contemporary art space or gallery for LGBTQIA+ arts in the UK,” Sahhar said. “It’s important for these conversations to happen in cultural institutions correctly, and if we can use art to educate, archive, and aid these experiences by looking through alternative lenses, including the queer lens, then we should.”
Text Daniel Rodgers