The Institute of Sexology at the Wellcome Collection | Exhibition review

A famous song says “Love is in the air” but, let’s face it, it’s all about Sex. It’s everywhere, all the time. It’s a natural yet controversial theme that has always had us mind-boggled and it is no surprise that the Wellcome Collection decided to make it the subject of its first long-running exhibition.

Known for being the free destination for the incurably curious, the museum currently hosts The Institute of Sexology – a free exhibition whose aim is to “lay bare the big questions of human sexuality”. The result is the display of a significantly extensive selection of items that include paintings, photographs, audio-visual recordings and other kinds of objects, many of which were property of Henry Wellcome himself – an avid researcher and collector.

All these artefacts are nicely presented with captions that effectively summarise the history behind them, their scope and the consequences they had in the context in which they were conceived and used as well as the heritage they have retained in the long run. The most appealing side of this exhibition is its approach on such a thorny matter like sex: inquisitive, explicit, shameless, unbiased, clinical. It spans various areas of interest and treats them in the same uncritical way giving almost endless food for thought.

The Institute of Sexology investigates issues like gender identity, explores habits and practices of the intercourse, questions morality, remembers socio-political events. It’s a feast for the eyes and an even more pleasurable delight for the mind of the visitors, who are invited to delve into deep reflection and will definitely leave the museum with a wider cultural baggage that should provide them with a different perspective on any aspect of sex they thought they knew until now.

From the pioneers Krafft-Ebing and Havelock Ellis to Hirschfeld, through Freud and Stopes, to Malinowski and Mead, Kinsey and William Masters with Virginia Johnson, the exhibition features work from the most prominent sexologists and proposes itself as a medium to bring the enquiries on sex to another level, by showing their importance to a wider audience. It will arouse, make people giggle, shake their heads, but mostly it will inform and make conscious. What’s more, it’s free. Follow the curators’ suggestion and go “undress your mind”!

Verdict: •••••


The Institute of Sexology is on until 20th September 2015 at the Wellcome Collection, for further information visit here.

Watch a teaser:


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