The Ballad of Sexual Dependency

The Ballad of Sexual Dependency is a 1985 slide show exhibition and 1986 artist's book publication of photographs taken between 1979 and 1986 by photographer Nan Goldin.[1][2] It is an autobiographical document of a portion of New York City's No wave music and art scene, the post-Stonewall gay subculture of the late 1970s and early 1980s, the heroin subculture of the Bowery neighborhood, and Goldin’s personal family and love life.[3]

The Ballad of Sexual Dependency (1986). The image on the cover is "Nan and Brian in Bed" (1981).

Critic Sean O'Hagan, writing in The Guardian in 2014, said it "remains a benchmark for all other work in a similar confessional vein."[4] Lucy Davies, writing in The Telegraph in 2014, said it "would come to influence a generation of fledgling photographers, who fell into her truth-telling wake. She was credited by none other than Bill Clinton with inventing heroin chic".[1]


The title The Ballad of Sexual Dependency was taken from a song in Bertolt Brecht's Threepenny Opera.[5]

It was originally devised as a slideshow set to the music of Velvet Underground, James Brown, Nina Simone, Charles Aznavour, Screamin' Jay Hawkins and Petula Clark among others, to entertain Goldin's friends.[4][2] It "portrayed her friends – many of them part of the hard-drugs subculture on New York's lower east side – as they partied, got high, fought and had sex. It was first publicly shown at the Whitney Biennial in New York in 1985 and was published as a photobook the following year."[4]

The snapshot aesthetic book was first published with help from Marvin Heiferman, Mark Holborn, and Suzanne Fletcher in 1986.

Selected solo exhibitionsEdit


  • The Ballad of Sexual Dependency.
    • New York, NY: Aperture, 1986. ISBN 978-0-89381-236-2.
    • New York, NY: Aperture, 2012. Hardback ISBN 978-1-59711-208-6. Paperback ISBN 978-1-59711-210-9.


The Ballad of Sexual Dependency is held in the following permanent collection:


  1. ^ a b c Beyfus, Drusilla (26 Jun 2009). "Nan Goldin: unafraid of the dark". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 27 December 2014.
  2. ^ a b Bracewell, Michael (14 November 1999). "Landmarks in the Ascent of Nan". The Independent. Retrieved 27 December 2014.
  3. ^ Goldin, Nan. Marvin Heiferman; Mark Holborn; Suzanne Fletcher (eds.). The ballad of sexual dependency (2012 reissue ed.). New York, N.Y.: Aperture Foundation. ISBN 978-1-59711-208-6.
  4. ^ a b c d O'Hagan, Sean (20 July 2010). "Nan Goldin: 'I wanted to get high from a really early age'". The Guardian. Retrieved 27 December 2014.
  5. ^ Brecht, Bertolt. "Three Penny Opera." Act II, song 12.
  6. ^ Kany, Daniel (November 5, 2017). "Nan Goldin's Sexual Sanctuary on view at Portland Museum of Art".
  7. ^ "Nan Goldin: Until 27 October 2019 – Display at Tate Modern". Tate.
  8. ^ Walters, Joanna (22 March 2019). "Tate art galleries will no longer accept donations from the Sackler family". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 2019-03-24 – via