Orlando at the present time

Bringing together contemporary artistic responses to Virginia Woolf’s landmark novel, 'Orlando: A Biography'.

The first exhibition in Charleston’s new Wolfson Gallery, ‘Orlando at the present time’, brought together contemporary artistic responses to Virginia Woolf’s landmark novel ‘Orlando: A Biography’, and marked 90 years since the novel’s original publication.

The novel tells the tale of an Elizabethan nobleman through a narrative which covers 400 years of history, exploring themes of gender, sexuality and identity. ‘Orlando at the present time’ examined the historical background to the novel, while considering its relevance and resonance in contemporary society, through an engaging display of historical and contemporary artworks, costumes, archival evidence and new commissions.

Works by artists including Kaye Donachie, Paul Kindersley, Delaine Le Bas and Matt Smith appeared alongside rarely seen letters, photographs and objects pertaining to the original publication of the novel. Woolf’s innovative use of a protagonist who appears to change gender has made it an important reference point for those interested in gender and feminist theory and its re-examination at Charleston connected both with the Bloomsbury group’s queer history and contemporary discussions about gender.