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CHICAGO’S WRIGHTWOOD 659, a private institution focused on socially engaged art, mounted a landmark exhibition, The First Homosexuals: Global Depictions of a New Identity, 1869–1930, last fall. A team of international scholars, led by art historian Jonathan D. Katz, assembled a groundbreaking show with over 100 paintings, prints, photographs, and film clips that reveal how, as Katz notes, “while language narrowed into a simplistic binary of homosexual / heterosexual, art gave form to a nuanced range of sexualities and genders that can best be described as queer.”


IN A CORRIDOR within the British Museum is Cupboard 55, an antique wooden cabinet numbered with a bronze plaque, containing more than 1,100 objects itemized into a registry and sequestered into an archive. It was created in 1865 and known as the Museum Secretum. Until the 1960s, the Secret Museum was a storeroom of erotica from the ancient world, including Asian, Egyptian, Greek, Near Eastern, and Roman artifacts. Many of them were objects of worship, such as pre-Christian fertility gods and goddesses. Also concealed in the cupboard were phallocentric objects, wax votive phalluses from churches in Isernia, Italy, and 8th- and 9th-century animal membrane condoms in original paper wrappers and tied with silk ribbons at the open end.