Pride Unprejudiced

B.J. Quinn

Queer Mind, Body and Soul at The National Gallery
of Ireland

July 30th saw the opening of Queer Mind, Body and Soul, a free exhibition taking place at Dublin’s National Gallery until October 17. 
Created by Gaisce – The President’s Award (a self-development programme for young people which aims to enhance well-being through participation in personal, physical and community challenges) the exhibition explores the experiences and perspectives of a group of young LGBTQIA+, gender non-conforming people and allies, and runs in the National Gallery’s Millennium Wing Studio. 
Collaborating with artist Shireen Shortt, since September 2020, the Gaisce LikeMinded group have worked to express themselves artistically across numerous disciplines and forms. The artworks on display navigate a variety of experiences and emotions felt by the group, which they hope represents the experiences of many LGBTQIA+ and gender non-conforming people.
Sean Rainbird, Director, National Gallery of Ireland, commented: “We are delighted to open this dynamic exhibition in the Gallery’s Millennium Wing Studio. The Gallery is committed to bringing people and art together, and making the Gallery an exciting place to encounter art. The work of this group of talented young people will offer our visitors new perspectives.”
Be aware that the exhibition contains references to assault, homophobia and transphobia, which some visitors may find upsetting. But, it’s not without reason; above all, the artists are expressing their concerns, challenging the wider population to understand their community and explain how the public can be supportive moving forward.    
“An incredible group of creative young people have persevered regardless of Covid to produce amazing pieces of reflective and thought-provoking art, together,” says Yvonne McKenna, Gaisce CEO. “Each young person has put their heart and soul into their pieces, and the fact that they will now be shown at the National Gallery of Ireland is a testament to their commitment and the importance of the challenge they are expressing to society today about acceptance, love and belonging.”
Although the exhibition is brief – something that shouldn’t take you more than 15 mins to complete – the artworks cover a wide range of media: drawings, painting, embroidery, sculpture, audiovisual. One eye-catching piece, possibly my favourite of the lot, is titled Proud Minds. With this work, the artist (who goes by the name “A”) has sculpted a head about the size of a kettle. But each facial feature – an ear out of place; a nose, make that two; a moustache where you wouldn’t normally find a mustache – is different and unique, highlighting the many individual differences within the LGBTQIA+ community. Now, if you look inside the top of the head, which has been conveniently popped open like a cookie jar, you will see its rainbow coloured brain in all its pride, showing the shared goal at the community’s center: promotion of love and acceptance.
What has stuck with me since my visit, and what I consider to be the most impressive element of Queer Mind, Body and Soul, is just how young these artists are: most are 16 years old. To have their work decorating the walls of the National Gallery of Ireland, alongside the likes of Jack B. Yeats and Caravaggio, is a great achievement. As well, I was delighted to see young children exploring the exhibition, perhaps bemused by the bold concepts on display but nonetheless internalising, thinking and, who knows, finding inspiration.
The exhibition closes on 17 October 2021. Entry to all exhibitions year-round is free for Friends of the National Gallery of Ireland. Find out more at
Image: National Gallery