Friday, 5 September 2014


A camel composed of copulating humans; gouache painting, 19th century India. Wellcome Images

The Wellcome Collection relaunches in November with an eye-popping show about sex. From scientific studies to sex toys through the ages, objects designed to stop masturbation and much more, it's a survey of human sexuality in all its complicated, kinky and sometimes strange glory.

From raunchy ancient carvings to old-fashioned sex toys, all things erotica will be the focus of a new exhibition set to open later this year.

The Institute of Sexology, held at London’s Wellcome Collection, will feature more than 200 objects including condoms, films and paintings of sex in the first UK exhibition to bring together the pioneers of sex study.

Key figures in the study of sex from Sigmund Freud to Virginia Johnson will be a focus, as the exhibition explores their experiments and research.
The show promises everything from “Alfred Kinsey’s complex coded questionnaires to Samoan jewellery to sex machines” and will look at how sexologists have “shapes our ever-evolving attitudes towards sexual behaviour and identity,” organisers have said.

Artworks exploring sexual identity from the likes of Zanele Muholi, Sharon Hayes and Timothy Archibald will be on display, alongside objects from Henry Wellcome’s vast erotica collection.

A carved ivory statue in the form of a copulating man and woman. The Science Museum.

A collection of sexual aids, with instructions, in a wooden box, by Arita Drugs and Rubber Goods Company, Kobe, Japan. 1930-1935

Cylindrical lekythos with black figure decoration showing scenes of copulation probably from Attica, Greece, 550 BC – 500BC

Ivory shell, divided into 2 halves; 1 half showing female genitalia, the other half showing a woman looking at an erotic picture

Jugum penis anti-masturbation device; steel, nickel plated, probably British 1880-1920

Les charms de la masturbation; page from Invocation a l’more chant philosophique (A virtuoso of the good fashion) circa 1825 (Wellcome images)

Lili Elba watercolour, attributed to Gerda Wegener circa 1929. Elba had 5 gender reassignment surgeries. (Wellcome images.)

Masked man in a pink tutu. 1840-1902 (Wellcome images)

Painting manuscript of the Kama Sutra, Nepal, 1928 (Wellcome images)

Peruvian pottery vessel with handle, neck broken off, showing a couple engaged in anal intercourse.

Photo of a man dressed in women’s clothing. (Wellcome images)

Plaster impressions from scenes showing erotic scenes. The Science Museum (The Wellcome Library)

Plate from The Secret Companion, a medical work on Onanism, or Self Pollution, with the Best Mode of Treatment of all Cases of Nervous and Sexual Debility, Impotency etc. From 1845, Wellcome Images.

Porcelain fruit, hinged, contains male and female copulating; Oriental.

Solid brass phallic amulet in for of Priapus with hindquarters of a horse. Graeco-Roman 100 BC

Veedee vibratory massage box. German, early 20th century.

Woman riding a man; coloured postcard. Circa 1840-1902

There will be live events, performance art and discussions to encourage the observation, analysis and questioning of sexual theories.

Curator Kate Forde hopes the exhibition will “become a living repository for visitors’ stories, inspiring debate and self-reflection on this most fascinating and vital of topics”.

The Institute of Sexology runs from 20th November later this year until 20th September 2015 and will form part of a “Sexology Season of activity” around the country.

Wellcome Collection is located at 183 Euston Road, Bloomsbury, London NW1 2BE