Bex Wade Becomes the First Trans Artist on Permanent Display at London’s V&A Museum

The move follows criticism of the V&A's removal of LGBTQIA materials from its Design Gallery shop.

Bex Wade, Kids are a blessing (2022) - Photo courtesy of the artist.

London-based artist Bex Wade has become the first trans artist to go on permanent display at the Victoria & Albert Museum. Their work Trans Kids are a blessing (2022) was installed in September in the Design Gallery section of the Young V&A, which reopened on July 1 after being closed for three years for renovations. The work is part of a showcase about protest as a force for change, and hangs alongside pieces by American pop artist Keith Haring and words from Swedish activist Greta Thunberg.

The photograph, taken at London’s “Ban Conversion Therapy” protest in April 2022, which called on the government to introduce a full ban on LGBTQIA (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, Intersex, Asexual) conversion therapy practices, shows protesters holding handmade signs above their heads which read “trans kids are a blessing” and “trans rights.” Wade has been photographing the queer community internationally for two decades, and their work has featured in Vice and British Vogue.

The V&A holds one of the oldest and largest collections of photography in the world, and four other works by Wade were acquired by the institution in May 2023. The funds used to acquire the work were awarded by Art Fund to the V&A’s curator of prints, Zorian Clayton.

In a blog post on November 13 on the V&A website, Clayton wrote: “Over the past two years, I have [worked] towards the same goal as the proud recipient of an Art Fund New Collecting Award to improve the representation of trans and non-binary artists and key allies in the permanent collection of the V&A. I have so far purchased 16 works by eight artists and have two months remaining to make the final purchases before publishing a full report in the new year.” Clayton is also the co-chair of the museum’s LGBTQ Working Group.

This comes following criticism of the museum in the summer after LGBTQIA materials were removed from the Design Gallery before the Young V&A’s July reopening. This included the books Here and Queer: A Queer Girl’s Guide to Life (2022) by Rowan Ellis and Seeing Gender: An Illustrated Guide to Identity and Expression (2022) by Iris Gottlieb, as well as a “Some People are Trans: Get Over It” poster by the charity Stonewall.

In a recent statement sent to Artnet, the V&A said that the poster was replaced by Wade’s work, and that the museum “strive[s] to ensure that the V&A’s museums are welcoming and inclusive spaces, for everyone”, and that “the Young V&A shop range also now includes further books exploring LGBTQ+ and trans stories, designed for our age range.”  


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