On my bookshelf | Dan Vo - Museums Association

On my bookshelf | Dan Vo

The Sexual Perspective: Homosexuality and Art in the Last 100 Years in the West, by Emmanuel Cooper

I confess to owning a tome that is wrapped in emerald-coloured paper decorated with peacock feathers, blue glitter sparkling in the eyespots. The dust jacket hides the book’s cover illustration of The Mirror (1991) by Matthew Stradling, of a muscled nude gazing at his reflection while pearls snake across his thigh. The dust jacket saves my blushes when I pull out the book in public, because I take it everywhere. I know the contents intimately, yet it challenges me daily.

Before publishing his late partner’s memoirs, titled Making Emmanuel Cooper, David Horbury described to me how The Sexual Perspective was derided by the mainstream press when it was first published in 1986. Nowadays, it is probably more respectfully seen as a groundbreaking work that analysed and celebrated LGBTQ+ art and artists.

Coming from a working-class background, Cooper was a potter, writer, LGBTQ+ rights advocate and contributor to the Victoria and Albert Museum (V&A), London. I miss taking people to see his ceramic glaze samples there. I’ve shared his story on the V&A’s LGBTQ+ tours that I’ve run. I still aspire to show the courage Cooper did in his work.

Dan Vo is the project manager for the Queer Heritage and Collections Network supported by the Art Fund, and the course leader for the V&A Academy’s A Queer History of Objects, part of LGBT History Month in February

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