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giugno 29, 2020 - Solomon Guggenheim NY


Comunicato Stampa disponibile solo in lingua originale. 

NYC Pride, hosted annually in June, commemorates the Stonewall riots of 1969, in which LGBTQ+ individuals, led by black and Latinx trans women, gathered to protest the overpolicing of Manhattan’s queer spaces. Intimacy and care are among the central tenets of Pride, which celebrates the diversity, creativity, and resilience of the queer and trans community.

The current social distancing practices and ongoing courageous protests against police brutality have prompted a renewed focus on how people can interact and come together. In addition to gathering physically, people have discovered other means of expressing and sharing in mutual support, recognition, and affection. In this edition of the #guggenheim Circular, we present artworks that imagine alternative ways of thinking about love, touch, and supportive relations.

“Embrace” means to hug, to clasp in the arms (with friendship or desire), or to accept gladly or eagerly. Before the modern era, however, “to embrace” a person or thing had other meanings. In Romeo and Juliet, Shakespeare used the term to refer to sexual intercourse. In his explorations of the universe, Sir Isaac Newton sought to measure beyond what his eyes could “embrace” (or “see”). These earlier interpretations are helpful in reconsidering the definition of embrace now, in light of our physical separation.

To embrace another is to pass beyond the concerns of the self, and to consider what can be made possible through friendship, kinship, or other partnerships. Here are works by Felix Gonzalez-Torres, Roni Horn, Robert Mapplethorpe, Ad Minoliti, Zanele Muholi, Wu Tsang, and other artists who intervene in dominant discourses about gender and sexuality, and who use art to expand our notions of intimacy and care.

—Levi Prombaum and X Zhu-Nowell (June 2020)


Representations of affection have social and political force. They shape common understandings of what kinds of love are acceptable. Trans and queer artists have harnessed this power, using depictions of intimacy to reimagine how more forms of loving connection can be recognized, revalued, and celebrated. These artworks posit social difference as inevitable and beautiful rather than irreconcilable. Queer in their standpoint, these images of embracing bodies explore multiple aspects of identity, touching on intersecting experiences of race, gender, and sexuality.

Robert Mapplethorpe is frequently remembered for his explicit depictions of homoeroticism, as well as for his work’s connections to the contentious public debates about art and obscenity during the 1980s and ’90s. Yet, as the late curator Germano Celant observed, the photographer’s work is better understood as a fearless celebration of eros, the power of desire, in all its forms. In Embrace, two hugging men are dressed (and undressed) almost identically. Across their shared poses—bodies pressed together, faces buried in one another’s shoulders—Mapplethorpe draws attention to their racial difference. Rather than merely highlighting contrasting skin tones, however, Mapplethorpe animates this composition with the warmth and gentleness of a rich grayscale spectrum.


Simple physical gestures of support, like hugs, manifest a connection between two or more people and provide a temporary space of commonality. These acts also serve as a reminder that little can be achieved alone. Focusing on the necessity of partnership and collaborative support encourages society to care for each other, come together, and embrace radical differences.

These works explore the possibilities of partnership and challenge us to rethink what constitutes a pairing, a union, or similarity. By expanding beyond the limitations of biased viewpoints that regard the cis-gender heterosexual couple as the “norm,” the artists in this section visualize new kinds of partnerships, creative, familial, intimate, or otherwise.

The informal quality and effortlessly cool aesthetics of Wolfgang Tillmans’s work may disguise the extent to which his photographs are choreographed situations. He often photographs his friends, whom he calls his “accomplices,” in different intimate and raw situations. Abandoning the photographer-subject dynamic, Tillmans and his friends practice a new kind of relationship, in which the photographed subject becomes a partner in the work’s creation. Like Praying, I and Like Praying, II feature two accomplices hunched over, embracing themselves in what appears to be a praying position, a highly charged and emotional state. In most other contexts, these images might seem voyeuristic or invasive, but as an aesthetic product of Tillmans and his partners-in-crime, who is viewing whom?


Celebrate New York City Pride and join the performing arts series Works & Process for the premiere of newly commissioned video performances highlighting creative expressions by LGBTQ+ artists. Examining our evolving world, these pieces are part of Works & Process Artists (WPA) Virtual Commissions, an initiative founded at the onset of the pandemic to financially support artists and nurture their practice.

Watch these inspiring and unique commissions, created while social distancing. New performances will premiere on Works & Process social media (@worksandprocess) on select evenings June 19–29 at 7:30 pm EDT.