Do you remember the play and comedy film “No Sex Please, We’re British” that had so much success in the 1970s? In the UK, the play totalled a record-breaking 6,761 performances between 1971 and 1987.

It seems that the times have changed, though, because while visiting the exhibition “BREATHLESS– London Art Now” at the Ca’ Pesaro International Gallery of Modern Art in Venice, one is tempted to say, “Just sex please, we’re British”. We don’t mean to generalize, of course.

The exhibition, organized with the support of the British Council and curated by Norman Rosenthal, Harry Woodlock and Elisabetta Barisoni (director of Ca’ Pesaro), brings together 15 emerging London-based artists, for a total of over 40 works, including five original site-specific installations commissioned by Ca’ Pesaro and other works from the collections of the British Council and the Arts Council, from galleries, and from artist studios. The works range from paintings and sculptures to videos, photographs, installations, and even performances.


As noted by Elisabetta Barisoni in the catalogue, “through the filter of contemporary art, once again, we
look for answers, even though we know that the best art is one that does not easily provide these, and at the most poses questions; even though we know that the artist’s eye always discerns and is more intense, more crude, more visionary than the news reports and more irrational than historicisation. But often it is more durable and sometimes even eternal.”

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A number of visitors (casual, not regular, museum-goers, obviously) complained about the ‘obscenity’ of
some of the works on display, which depict acts of autoeroticism, details of genitalia or investigate sexual identity. In reply to these complaints, Gabriella Belli, director of the Fondazione Musei Civici di Venezia.


Said that, compared to the past, the way in which these young artists deal with sexuality is more intimate and poetic, and not vulgar at all. Besides, reflection on gender, if done in a certain way, is extremely relevant to our times, as demonstrated by its increasing importance in the past few years.

Thus, according to Belli, no one should feel offended or embarrassed by the exhibition, which by placing
London centre stage becomes, on a metaphorical level, an investigation of everyday life and creativity in the Western world.

The artists in the exhibition are Larry Achiampong, Alvaro Barrington, Alice Channer, Matt Copson, Nicolas Deshayes, Ed Fornieles, Anthea Hamilton, Tom Hardwick-Allan, Celia Hempton, Evan Ifekoya, Lydia Ourahmane, Eddie Peake, Hannah Quinlan & Rosie Hastings, Prem Sahib, Victoria Sin, and Issy Wood. Running until 1 March 2020.