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Exhibition Opening

Fall 1997

Exhibition Opening Celebrates Institute's Past, Heralds Its Future

[photo of lady with fan]

With a recording of some of Kinsey Institute founder Alfred Kinsey's favorite music playing in the background, more than 300 honored guests and 800 members of the general public gathered for the opening of The Art of Desire: Erotic Treasures from The Kinsey Institute, an exhibition celebrating the 50th anniversary of The Kinsey Institute for Research in Sex, Gender, and Reproduction. The show runs through December 5 at the School of Fine Arts Gallery at Indiana University Bloomington.

The exhibition is the first comprehensive survey of the extensive art and photography collections of The Kinsey Institute. More than 200 objects are on display, ranging from ancient Egyptian, pre-Columbian, and Roman objects to contemporary photography. A 116-page exhibition catalog featuring 49 black-and-white and full-color images from the show is available from the Institute.

As an anniversary event, the exhibition naturally focuses attention on the past, on The Kinsey Institute's first fifty years. But it also heralds the institute's future. The exhibition opening marked the formal launch of the Friends of The Kinsey Institute, a group of individuals whose support of the institute's mission will help the institute continue its vital research, clinical care, and collections' activities into the next century.

While the anniversary exhibition is a testament to the power and pervasiveness of human sexual expression throughout time and across cultures, events surrounding the exhibition also attest to the persistence of fear of knowledge about sexuality. The Art of Desire opened on the eve of a protest on the Bloomington town square by Concerned Women for America -- one in a series of demonstrations across the country calling for the closure of The Kinsey Institute. Their objective appears to be to discredit Alfred Kinsey, and, in the process, to undermine and eventually eliminate sex education in public schools. Their overarching charge is that Kinsey is responsible for the decline in sexual morals and in the importance of family in American society.

In a lecture entitled The Kinsey Institute Today, delivered as part of the exhibition opening event, Kinsey Institute Director John Bancroft told a standing-room-only crowd that "it is patently absurd to think that one man, Alfred Kinsey -- whose main impact was to confront the world with what was already happening and in the process open up discussion and debate -- was responsible for, or even contributed to, massive social changes, including changes in the family and sexual morality." He continued that it is equally absurd to "believe that by attacking and attempting to discredit Kinsey we will return to some happier, more virtuous state from the past when young people remained under the moral influence of their families or local communities."

In remarks made during the exhibition preview, IU Bloomington Chancellor Kenneth R. Gros Louis quoted a recent transfer student to IU who said,

What is most striking is that at my previous school, the professors always knew the answers to thte questions they asked. Here at IU, not only are they willing to ask the questions that don't have canned or obvious answers, they let those questions hang in the air for long moments that are sometimes inspiring, sometimes terrifying.

"Surely others had the training, the research background, the ability to ask the sometimes frightening questions Alfred Kinsey asked us about ourselves," Gros Louis added. "Yet only he dared."

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