Leslie-Lohman Museum of Gay and Lesbian Art

Edification value
Entertainment value
Should you go?
Time spent 62 minutes
Best thing I saw or learned Edward Hochschild’s “Vial Cross” from 1994.  A wooden cross studded with test tubes filled with pills, sand, hair, and bodily fluids.  I don’t think I’ve seen another work of art more eloquently sum up the suffering of the AIDS crisis.

The Leslie-Lohman Museum occupies the newest museum space in the city, having  moved into spiffy new digs in SoHo in just the last two weeks. 

Founded by Charles W. Leslie and Fritz Lohman, longtime collectors of art by LGBTQ artists, the museum has a substantial collection, and will be curating 6-8 shows annually.  Though the space is brand new, the museum and foundation have been around a while, and in fact they’re inaugurating the new location with a survey show, “Expanded Visions: Fifty Years of Collecting.”

The two words that leap most quickly to mind when I think about the place are “diversity” and “penises.”  The collection endeavors to cover an impressively diverse array of artists, and many different kinds of people are represented.  But at the same time, really, there were a lot of penises.  A lot.  I should’ve counted them.  But perhaps it’s better that I didn’t.

I’m not entirely sure I get what “LGBTQ art” is.  I mean, I’m not that naive, I get it in the simplest sense.  A bronze torso, like a Greek statue, of an incredibly buff dude with his t-shirt pulled up and jeans open and fallen to this taut, muscular thighs fits the bill.  But many, many gay artists have made art that I wouldn’t necessarily consider gay.  Mapplethorpe’s flowers, Hockney’s landscapes…I don’t think this museum would collect those. Based on the works on display it seems most accurate to say “LGBTQ art” involves some fuzzy triangulation between artist, subject matter, and intended audience to count. 

The new space for the museum is mostly terrific.  You enter into a fairly narrow area where two greeters welcome you and point out what’s on. There are two gallery spaces, a smaller one to the left as you walk in , and a larger one to the right and back. There’s also a kitchen space as well. I am torn between thinking it’s charming that there’s a kitchen right sort of in the open, and thinking their architect really should’ve found a way to separate that from the public space.

Kitchen notwithstanding, it’s an airy, pleasant space with the requisite good lighting and beautiful wood floors.  I’m looking forward to seeing how the museum uses it over time.

The inaugural show is sort of a hodge-podge.  I get that survey shows do that, and I would be disappointed if they’d segregated the gay art over here, the lesbian art over there, etc.  Sorting by chronology or medium can  oversimplify, too.  But I would’ve appreciated some effort to put a lens on the collection.  Love versus sex.  Ideals of beauty.  Something.

Should you go?  It depends on how you feel about diversity and penises.  And maybe, even if you are squeamish about either of those two things, you should consider going anyway.  It might be good for you.

For Reference:

Address 26 Wooster Street, Manhattan
Website leslielohman.org
Cost Free


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