Sunday, 28 September 2014

Henry Wellcome: You're Welcome!

I am staring at a nude Popeye cartoon in a high, bright room in Wellcome Collection on the Euston Road in London. The museum is holding an exhibition called The Institute of Sexology, which will tell, in paintings and books and objects, the history of sexology and the sexologists. Popeye is naked with a cartoon woman. “You’re going to screw me till I say I’ve got enough,” she says. Not even Popeye is exempt from the human compulsion for sex. I’m glad Olive Oyl isn’t here.

The Wellcome Collection is part of the Wellcome Trust, founded by the American pharmaceutical millionaire Henry Wellcome, who owned an amazing collection of phallic objects, and who designated most of his fortune to enrich human and animal health. Was Henry Wellcome gay, I ask the charming curator, stupidly. “Good question,” she replies. We move on.

The history of sexology, which lives at the crossroads of biology, psychology and sociology, begins in the mid-19th century. The Victorians were what we would today call violently prudish; dowsed in the teachings of Christianity, they pathologised everything...

The Institute of Sexology exhibition is at the Wellcome Collection, London NW1, from November 20-Sept 20, 2015;

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