To mark London Pride Week 2019, British artist Hal Messel has joined forces with the British Museum and LGBTQ charity Stonewall on a unique project, Rainbow Cups, celebrating LGBTQ rights and drawing attention to the issues facing these communities.
The new works are based on the Warren Cup – a rare Roman artefact depicting two homoerotic acts which dates to the first century AD and is on permanent display at the British Museum. An experienced Huguenot silversmith who has created commissions for the likes of the Royal Collection and the David Gill Gallery at Masterpiece, Messel cast each of the new cups in solid silver using a mould made from the Warren Cup, with each Rainbow Cup taking on one of the original colours of the Pride flag designed by Gilbert Baker in 1978.
Using an innovative new tinting method inspired by the work of Oliver Messel, the gay architect, designer and Bright Young Thing who also happens to be Hal’s great uncle, Messel worked with Stonewall to imbue each cup with a different meaning depending on its colour: sex (hot pink), life (red), healing (orange), sunlight (yellow), nature (green), magic/art (turquoise), serenity (indigo) and spirit (violet).
“Depictions of sex were widely found and in fact celebrated in Roman art but for hundreds of years, same-sex relationships have been all-but erased from history for fear of public outcry,” explains Hessel. “This project is all about tackling assumptions and raising awareness around how gender identity and sexual orientation continue to remain on the fringes of so much contemporary art.
“It’s important for us to consider as society why works of art like the Warren Cup and the Rainbow Cups are considered by many to be more provocative today, 2,000 years on, than they were to the Romans, and what that says about us as a society and how we view LGBT people.”
The cups will go on display at the British Museum before travelling to further public exhibitions at Christie’s and Brown Hart Gardens in Mayfair. Safe passage is guaranteed by a series of custom cases built by Hal’s father, the celebrated furniture designer Thomas Messel, which have been designed to represent the cups they contain.
After being exhibited the cups will be sold to private collectors with a donation from the artist and Pygmalion, the gallery that represents him, going to support Stonewall’s vital work campaigning for LGBTQ rights and the British Museum’s ongoing work with the LGBTQ community.
Discover more from the world of fine art and design and go behind-the-scenes with Linley at Masterpiece 2019…