A defining moment with (Un)Defining Queer – exhibition review

A new blog post by MA student Anthony Ioannou reviews (Un)Defining Queer – an exhibition curated by alumni Dominic Bilton which ran at The Whitworth Gallery in Manchester throughout 2023.

Open from January to December 2023, (Un)Defining Queer delved into The Whitworth’s collection to examine how a queer lens can be used to define what the term ‘queer’ means.

Presenting collection works that had never been on display before, in addition to loans, the exhibition included artists such as: Ajamu X, Niki de Saint Phalle, General Idea, David Hockney, Maggie Hambling, Pearl Alcock, Keith Vaughan, Matthew Bamber, Sarah-Joy Ford, Wolfgang Tillmans, Chester Tenneson and Jez Dolan.

(Un)Defining Queer was co-curated by Project Producer Dominic Bilton, an MA Art Gallery and Museum Studies alumni from the University of Leeds.

Exhibition review

Anthony Ioannou is an MA Arts Management and Heritage Studies student in the School of Fine Art, History of Art and Cultural Studies.

Following a visit to (Un)Defining Queer at the end of last year, Anthony reviewed the exhibition in a Medium blog post hosted on the Centre for Critical Studies in Museums, Galleries and Heritage website. Anthony said:

“When looking back on exhibitions I have had the pleasure of seeing, The Whitworth Gallery’s (Un)Defining Queer has burrowed into my brain and left me with many themes and ideas to consider. They remain, even after the exhibition closed on 3 December 2023.

“(Un)Defining Queer’s curator Dominic Bilton has created a new language on which to explore an art collection and create a brand-new glossary relating to Queer art History.

“Through his ongoing community engagement, Bilton has created an exhibition with a flavour unlike any Queer Art exhibition I have seen. There is a synergy that you feel climbing those stairs. Seeing the (Un)Defining Queer Tapestry hanging as a Queer person made me feel a sense of emotion.

“As a museum visitor and student of Arts Management and Heritage Studies, I look at exhibitions with a highly critical eye. I am pleased to say that during my initial and subsequent visits to (Un)Defining Queer, my critical eye was tempered by the connections I felt to the exhibit. Dominic Bilton has created a space where the Queer community can feel links to the museum.”

Bilton has created an exhibition with a flavour unlike any Queer Art exhibition I have seen.

Anthony Ioannou

Anthony brings his own experience of working in archives settings (as a collections manager) to the exhibition review, which touches on discussions with Dominic Bilton regarding documenting, archiving and future plans.

Ioannou also explores Bilton’s perspectives on selecting various pieces for the show and reviews some of the pieces on display, including AIDS wallpaper by General Idea.

Read Anthony’s review of Un(Defining) Queer.


Ajamu X, Bud Kim, 2018 © the artist, Ajamu Studio.