Magnus Hastings’ ‘Queen’ set to sashay into Walker Art Gallery

Known for his internationally-recognised work with drag performers and the LGBTQ+ community, Magnus Hastings has photographed a who’s-who of drag superstars throughout his career as well created numerous icon images of well-known famous faces from Todrick Hall, Boy George to Luke Evans and Cheyenne Jackson.

In his upcoming exhibition at Walker Art Gallery, titled ‘Queen’, Hastings will display a curated selection of his most famous photographs, including portraits of renowned drag queens Bianca del Rio, Courtney Act, and Trixie Mattel.

Alongside these iconic images, the exhibition will feature newly commissioned, never-before-seen photographs spotlighting dozens of Liverpool’s own legendary drag artists, shot in the city’s famous Pride Quarter.

Originally from London, Hastings has gained widespread recognition through his distinctive style that combines bold colour palettes with a keen eye for capturing the essence of his subjects. ‘Queen’, a unique collaboration between Magnus Hastings and National Museums Liverpool, stands as a vibrant testament to the individual artistry of drag and the collective spirit of pride.

Liverpool’s world-renowned drag scene serves as both a haven and a stage for numerous outstanding performers who live, work, and slay in the city.

Danny Beard as part of Queen exhibition by Magnus Hastings

From iconic local artists like Lily Savage to more recent stars like Danny Beard, winner of RuPaul’s Drag Race UK season four, the city boasts a rich drag history shaped by these queens.

In ‘Queen’, Hastings turns the camera on some of the city’s local drag superstars, showcasing their unique looks in a series of photographs that capture the vivacity and individuality embodying the city’s drag scene.

In addition to these original images, a series of Hastings’ most iconic photographs from throughout his career will be featured, including those from his book ‘Rainbow Revolution’, which showcases figures from across the LGBTQ+ community, creatively envisioning the space inside an empty white box.

Hastings’ work evokes the essence of drag in an intimate, multi-layered portrait, presenting these performers and their art in a rarely seen way. His self-taught, spontaneous approach captures the irreverent spirit and fierce glamour of drag culture.

The exhibition features a royal court of drag excellences, with international queens featured including Adore Delano, Alaska, Bob the Drag Queen, Gottmik, Jaida Essence Hall, Jinkx Monsoon, Katya, Raja, Sasha Velour, Violet Chachki, and many more. Among the local drag artists photographed for ‘Queen’ are Danny Beard, Sister Sister, Brenda LaBeau, Naya Thorn, and Violet Pain, alongside a host of other Merseyside performers.

Shea Couleé as part Queen exhibition by Magnus Hastings

Magnus Hastings said, “Drag has always been at the forefront of my work, whatever else I do I am always pulled back to the genre as I have never found the same freedom, daring and creativity anywhere else. I like to say I am a participant, not an observer, as it has always made sense to me since I was a small boy teetering in my mother’s heels wrapped in a boa. Drag is my home.

“This exhibition showcases my work both old and new, with a truly international cast of queens from Los Angeles to Liverpool and featuring some of the biggest names on the scene today. It was especially exciting and important for me to come to Liverpool and photograph the local talent and include their artistry.

“Drag is an ever-evolving genre and my photographs have always showcased the entire spectrum; from comedy queens, bearded queens, full female illusionists, drag kings and gender benders all with one thing in common – they are all valid and all are drag.

“This show is an exploration of drag’s roots and its continual evolution, and I’m really thrilled to have all these incredible subjects I’ve photographed gathered in one place – it’s going to be an amazing showcase of talent.”

David Watson, Executive Director of Audiences & Media at National Museums Liverpool, said, “We are absolutely thrilled to be presenting ‘Queen’, an extraordinary exhibition that celebrates the incredible talent, creativity, and fierce artistry of drag performers from both Liverpool and around the world.

“Through the brilliant lens of Magnus Hastings, this showcase offers a captivating glimpse into the vibrant, diverse, and unapologetically expressive world of drag, which has long been an integral part of Liverpool’s cultural fabric.

“We are incredibly excited for everyone to experience this extraordinary world through Magnus’ photography. ‘Queen’ promises to be a mesmerizing celebration of individuality and self-expression, and we cannot wait to share this fabulous, fearless exhibition with our visitors from near and far!”

Admission to ‘Queen’ by Magnus Hastings is free, with donations welcome.

‘Queen’ by Magnus Hastings opens at the Walker Art Gallery on 27 July and runs until 25 August 2024 

Lead image: Violet Pain, Big Dee, Minnie, and Lady Sian as part Queen by Magnus Hastings

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