to collect can be related to a wide array of objects such
as coins, marbles, figurines, newspapers and pieces of paper.
Hoarding, the more extreme end of the collecting spectrum,
has even become the focus of popular reality television
shows, documenting how this compulsion can take over a person's
life. At times this drive to collect can be directly tied
to someone's sexuality and sexual identity.
While some cultural institutions briefly touch upon the
theme of sex, the outright and unwavering inclusion of the
topic is rare. By avoiding sex, a museum or gallery space
can become a clinical and sanitized repository for a collection
of works, but in this selection, the idea of the "collection"
is charged through its association with sex.
Overtly sexual objects, erotic art pieces, a lover's hair
or even sexual experiences can all be collected. Even the
amassing of tattoos, both traditional and erotic, can be
considered a process of collecting, as well as an analogous
sexual experience, with someone giving and another receiving
the art form.
In the recently released biography Secret Historian by
Justin Spring, the life of Samuel Steward, a professor turned
tattoo artist and gay pulp fiction author under the pseudonym
of Phil Andros, is an extraordinary example of a sexual
collector, who began his collecting in an era where these
explicitly homosexual items could have easily had him arrested.
Coaxed and supported by Alfred Kinsey, Steward kept detailed
records of all of his sexual encounters. Graphic Polaroid
photos of sex parties, and in some cases, clippings of his
partner's pubic hair, were included in his "Stud File,"
a typed card catalogue documenting every partner and sex
act he participated from 1924 to 1974.
Passing away in 1993 at the age of 84, Steward's "Stud
File" included 746 cards, approximately 850 sexual
partners and just shy of 5,000 individual sexual acts with
another person, in addition to over 80 boxes of photographs,
drawings and manuscripts.
Beyond the overtly sexual items found in collections, new
meanings emerge when the implication of sex is tied to an
object. A collection of pills, syringes, viles of blood
and condoms is transformed when connected to sex in a post
HIV/AIDS world. This selection of "collections"
from the Visual AIDS archive is an exercise in perception
for the viewer, curated with the unabashed implication of
sex and sexuality.
b i o g r a p h y
A Native New Yorker, Sarah Forbes has worked with the Museum
of Sex since 2004, and has served as the museum's sole curator
since May of 2006. During her tenure at the Museum of Sex
she has curated over eleven exhibitions, covering a variety
of disciplines such as science, health, art, design, media,
and technology. The New York Times described her most recent
curatorial work with the exhibition Rubbers: the Life
History and Struggle of the Condom, as "fascinating"
and "extraordinary ... creat[ing] a modest exhibition
that elevates the status of the condom." Rubber
is currently on exhibition until December 5, 2010.
Aside from the New York Times, Sarah has been featured
in a wide range of publications such as the New York
Post, El Diario, Time Out New York, Art Daily, I-D, Print,
Radar, Nylon, Sculpture, Associated Press, Wired,
Reuters and New Scientist. She has also appeared on
CBS, NBC, Bravo's Ironic Iconic America, Mike and Juliet,
Montel, VH1 Brazil, Playboy Radio, Resto del Mundo
and the documentaries Indie Sex, featured on IFC,
as well as the new release Behind the Burly Q directed
by Leslie Zemeckis. In addition to media attention, she
speaks regularly at both academic conferences and universities.
Sarah recently co-authored the article "Revealing Moments:
Representations of Disability and Sexuality" based
off of her curatorial work with the 2007 exhibition Intimate
Encounters: Disability and Sexuality. The article was
published in the 2010 Museum Studies textbook, Re-Presenting
Disability: Activism and Agency in the Museum.
Sarah received an MA in Anthropology from the New School
University and a BA in Anthropology from Connecticut College.
Her research has primarily focused on gender issues in Latin
America, primarily in Mexico and Venezuela.