STEPHEN PLAYER Untitled (Pied Piper), ca. 1990 Oil on canvas 24 x 20" Gift of Ian Robertson 2010.112.78
CELEBRATION: Stepping Boldly into the Future
Nov 10 - Nov 27, 2010
This exhibition of art from the permanent collection featuring recent donations also includes several important pieces from our past. For instance there is a piece from our first show by Gerhardt Liebmann (1990), and a piece from our first lesbian group show by Lorell Butler (1993). Included also is the work of Theodore (The.) Titolo who has given Leslie/Lohman his entire lifetime production.
As we celebrate our 20 th anniversary we are being propelled into the future where very likely that big word, “museum” looms. Point of fact, we are actually already a museum simply because we have a permanent collection of art numbering nearly 4,000 items. But to become a certified “museum” is another matter. One must follow certain guidelines in the care and guardianship of the art in its holdings. And one must display it on a regular basis.
But don’t let this word “museum” alarm you. As Martha Stewart would say, “It’s a good thing”—being all grown up and responsible. We won’t change all that much—except to say that we will become more of an educational institution. Our pedigree is solid…
The Leslie/Lohman Gay Art Foundation was established in 1990 as a non-profit, tax-exempt cultural institution to preserve, display, and encourage visual art that derives from or speaks to the experiences of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people – broadly, all those sexual minorities now often described as “queer” (LGBTQ). The Foundation, which operates as a Museum with rotating displays from its Permanent Collection and also as a Gallery displaying new work, had its origins in the early 1970s, when the SoHo area of New York was becoming a magnet for artists just as the movement for gay/lesbian civil rights and cultural acceptance was expanding in the wake of the city’s Stonewall riots of 1969. The organization’s co-founders, SoHo activists and developers Charles Leslie and his late partner J. Frederic (Fritz) Lohman, met many gay artists who, though increasingly open about their identity and eager to create work that was unambiguously gay, were largely denied access to mainstream galleries and museums. In addition, they became aware of numerous gay artists and collectors whose historically significant works were being discarded or destroyed by homophobic family or heirs.
Their solution to this problem was two-fold: to purchase work by gay artists, and to exhibit those same artists outside the closed commercial gallery circuit. Their first show was a week-end affair in their SoHo loft in 1969, which was so successful that within five years the couple opened the Leslie/Lohman Gallery nearby as a space where LGBTQ artists could reach the growing gay public with an interest in the arts. The commercial Gallery became non-profit with the incorporation of the Foundation, and the founders’ holdings became the nucleus of the Museum’s Permanent Collection.
– James Saslow