Gay Art History Tours Homoerotically Rethink the Metropolitan Museum’s Artwork

The Met's collection may surprise you.

Marble Roman statue of a member of the imperial family (27 B.C.–A.D. 68).Bequest of Bill Blass, 2002. Courtesy of the Metropolitan Museum of Art

Marble Roman statue of a member of the imperial family (27 B.C.–A.D. 68).
Bequest of Bill Blass, 2002. Courtesy of the Metropolitan Museum of Art

There’s plenty to see at New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art, but only one man is offering gay art history tours of the venerable institution. Through his company Oscar Wilde Tours, reports the Daily Beast, 56-year-old art historian Andrew Lear is shining a new light on the Met’s surprisingly homoerotic collection.

Lear founded Oscar Wilde Tours last year with a Wilde-themed trip across Europe. In London, Lear hosted “From Edward II to Ian McKellen: the World’s Gayest National Portrait Gallery,” while the Louvre got a similar treatment in Paris. This year’s offerings include an Italian tour in October, and a number of gay-focused tours of New York, including the two-hour Met visit.

Oscar Wilde Tours isn’t the first group to latch onto the idea of sussing out the gay themes in artworks in prominent institutions. Quiky, a gay travel company, gives tours of the Vatican that celebrates the homosexuality of Renaissance artists like Michelangelo (see Gay Art Tours of the Vatican Are All the Rage).

While the ancient Greek and Roman galleries might seem like a natural starting place, with their embrace of the male nude and overtly sexual, often homoerotic imagery, especially on vases, Lear also explores homosexual undertones and themes in Oceanic works, Renaissance masterpieces, and modern paintings.

“There’s so much homoeroticism in the history of art that you can’t keep it out that easily,” Lear told the Daily Beast. “Even if you try, it’s going to pop back up.”

Highlights include a Pablo Picasso portrait of Gertrude Stein, and Marcantonio Pasqualini Crowned by Apollo, a large 17th-century work by Andrea Sacchi. Pasqualini, Lear wrote on the Gay and Lesbian Review, was a famous castrato, and the lover of the prominent cardinal who commissioned the painting, which prominently features the god’s genitalia.

In addition to Lear’s tours, the Met also plays host to quirky, subversive tours from Museum Hack, which even throws offbeat Bachelorette parties (see Museum Hack Offers Dirty Tours of the Met Collection for Bachelorettes and Museum Hack: Making Museum Tours Entertaining, Even Sexy).

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