The Wellcome Collection has turned to the sauciest of subjects in its latest exhibition, “The Institute of Sexology”, which celebrates sex studies pioneers with a wide range of objects encompassing archival material, ethnographic, and medical artifacts, as well as art, erotica, film, and photography.

This is the first exhibition at the London institution after its £17.5 million expansion, and it inaugurates a new gallery created specifically to host large, year-long shows.

It seems a timely moment to delve into the frisky topic that’s, more than ever, on







THIS IS ART CALLED THIS SEXOLOGY, NOT PORNGRAPHY.what is on everyone’s mind. After all, what could the success of 50 Shades of Graythe high ratings of the sexology-focused TV series Masters of Sex, and our current obsession with celebrities’ derrieres, be telling us?

But the co-curator of the exhibition Kate Forde was keen to stress that the exhibition “is not really about sex” but about “the study of sex, the science of sex.”

And the show does indeed offer a scholarly survey on the history of key sexologists and anthropologists—including Sigmund Freud, Marie Stopes, Alfred Kinsey, Wilhelm Reich, Magnus Hirschfeld, Margaret Mead, Bronislaw Malinowski, William Masters, and Virginia Johnson—who conducted the experiments and studies that turned sex into a scientific discipline, transcending traditional prejudices and taboos.

The exhibition also features several works by contemporary visual artists that approach the questions of sexual identity and desire from a less scientific perspective, including John Stezaker, Sharon Hayes, Zanele Muholi, and Timothy Archibald.

But it is perhaps the wealth of gadgets, images, and statuettes (among which the profusion of erect penises is quite noticeable), originally aimed at titillating users across a wide range of societies—from Ancient Greeks to the puritan Victorians—that will trigger blushing cheeks and muffled giggles in audiences of all ages.

The Insititute of Sexology is now open at the Wellcome Collection, London, and runs until September 2015.

Share the postShare on Google+Tweet about this on TwitterShare on TumblrPin on PinterestShare on LinkedInShare on Facebook