A new photo exhibition in Berlin explores stereotypes around masculinity and gay identity. The decidedly gay art show, entitled Beau Menteur (which translates as Handsome Liar or Lying Beau), is by French photographer Marc Martin.
Martin made waves a couple of years ago when he staged an exhibition (“Public Toilets, Private Affairs”) at Berlin’s Schwules Museum dedicated to exploring the history of gay sex in public toilets.
That show generated press attention around the world, and GayCities can exclusively reveal it will come to the Leslie-Lohman Museum in New York in September 2022.
The many faces of Benjamin
Beau Menteur features images of a Paris-based model and performer who goes simply by the name Benjamin.
Through working with one model, who transformed his appearance across several photoshoots, Martin wanted to explore notions of masculinity. For example, what makes one depiction of maleness supposedly more attractive than others? Does simply adding a beard or mustache to a man make him more appealing, and if so, why?
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Benjamin adopts different looks along the masculine-feminine spectrum, drawing upon his own experiences when younger as a drag performer. In some images, he’s a ballerina, while in others a boxer.
Perhaps all gender identity is a form of performance … Or as RuPaul famously suggested, “We’re born naked, and the rest is drag.”
Martin told GayCities he first met Benjamin in a bar in Paris. He was immediately drawn to him: “I perceived a gap between his physique and his charisma, which teased me because I felt he was a living proof of the prejudice associated to photography as being all about lies.”
“A whole series of identities are concealed in each and every person”
Three years ago, Benjamin agreed to pose for Martin and the project grew from there.
“We first shot a couple of sessions,” remembers Martin. “At the beginning, I had no idea this would evolve into making a whole book around him.
“In the end, Benjamin embodies a whole series of figures who, at first sight, have little in common. And yet they stand for different aspects of what a multi-facetted, sensual man can be today.
“This reveals how ambiguous every appearance is when you look beyond the first glance, and that a whole series of identities are concealed in each and every person. No matter whether that person sees themselves as binary or not. And regardless of skin colour, religion or age.”
Some of Martin’s images are too explicit for us to show here, but that’s intentional on his part. Martin aims to “combat the sterilization of queer culture with his erotic art.”
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Beau Menteur first showed in Paris a couple of months ago. It transferred to Berlin’s Eisenherz Buchladen at the start of November. It runs until January 6, 2022. For those unable to get to this evocative and arousing gay art show in person, there’s also a photo book available containing around 200 images.
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