For whatever reason, the Leslie-Lohman Museum doesn’t receive a lot of press despite the fact that it’s open six days a week and admission is always free. Perhaps it’s because it’s a gay and lesbian art museum, and Americans are still struggling with accepting the LGBTQ+ community. In any case, we figured we’d pay tribute to the museum by delving into its rich history and highlighting some current exhibits.
The museum is named after Charles Leslie and Fritz Lohman, two gay men who started collecting and displaying queer art in their SoHo loft in 1969. Over 200 people attended their opening weekend exhibition, and that’s when they realized that there was a huge need for this type of locale.
During the 1980s, Charles and Fritz felt compelled to preserve the works of queer artists who passed away due to AIDS. Unfortunately, it was all too common for artists to have their work discarded after their deaths by unsupportive family members.
That’s when Charles and Fritz launched the Leslie/Lohman Gay Art Foundation, Inc. The foundation was started in 1987 as a non-profit organization. As such, it was tax exempt under IRS code 501(c)3. What started out as a small, “underground” showroom on Prince Street has now grown to become a capacious, full-blown museum on 26 Wooster Street.
In May 2011, the New York State Board of Regents granted the Leslie/Lohman Gay Art Foundation official museum status. As such, it became the world’s first queer art museum. In December 2015, the name of the museum was switched to the Leslie-Lohman Museum of Gay and Lesbian Art. To this day, it remains the only gay art museum in existence.
From July 15 through October 2, the museum will be displaying A Deeper Dive, which examines the work of a handful of artists featured in the national touring exhibition, Art AIDS America. While Art AIDS America showcases over 100 artists who were impacted by the disease outbreak, A Deeper Dive sheds light on how eight artists in particular have explored the theme differently through various strategies and undertakings.
From August 14 through November 4, the Leslie-Lohman Museum will also be displaying Self-Portraits: 2009-2015. Photographer Cobi Moules explores how queer and trans portraitures reflect different representations of gay identity.