From New York to Amsterdam, museums around the world are flinging open their closet doors and hosting ambitious, thought-provoking exhibitions of LGBTQ-themed art. Some of these shows are bringing new and experimental art into the hallowed halls of museums, while others reveal that LGBTQ art has been there all along, hiding in plain sight among some of the world’s greatest collections.
With the first LGBTQ art show in Asia opening soon in Taipei, we've tracked down others happening around the world—here are five you shouldn’t miss:
At the heart of this sprawling exhibition sits the door to Oscar Wilde’s prison cell in Reading Gaol. Hung next to a portrait of the dapper writer, it’s a moving reminder of the persecution of LGBTQ people in Britain before homosexuality was decriminalised in 1967.
But this show isn’t all doom and gloom. It also features a celebratory painting by Duncan Grant of muscular, carefree men diving into the sea, a selection of David Hockney’s sun-soaked canvases and a portrait of the writer Vita Sackville-West (who had an affair with Virginia Woolf) staring unashamedly out at the viewer.
Queer British Art 1861 - 1967 is on until 1 October. More details at tate.org.uk.
This exhibition picks up exactly where Tate Britain’s show ends, investigating how artists have explored sexuality and gender since homosexuality was decriminalised in the UK in 1967.
Alongside feminist paintings by Margaret Harrison, photographs by Indian LGBTQ activist Sunil Gupta and a video by Oscar-winning director Steve McQueen, the trans artist Charlie Craggs will be offering free manicures to gallery-goers. By chatting to visitors about her life as a trans woman while she paints their nails, Craggs hopes to raise awareness about trans issues with just some friendly words and a lick of nail polish.
Coming Out: Sexuality, Gender and Identity is on until 5 November. More details at liverpoolmuseums.org.uk.
The first museum in the world dedicated to LGBTQ art, the Leslie Lohman Museum hosts up to eight exhibitions a year in its recently-renovated galleries in Lower Manhattan.
This exhibition is in many ways a celebration of the museum’s work so far, featuring more than 250 pieces bought by the museum’s founders—Charles W. Leslie and Fritz Lohman—since they started collecting art in the 1960s. Showcasing pieces by big-name artists such as Robert Mapplethorpe alongside untitled, unattributed objects, this exhibition proves that there’s plenty of interesting art that doesn’t make it into the history books.
Expanded Visions: Fifty Years of Collecting is on until October 29. More details at visualaids.org.
Madrid Pride is a raucous street party, famous for its sangria-fuelled parade, the High Heel Race through the Cheuca district and camp performances by Eurovision winners past and present. But this year some more scholarly events were added to the calendar, including an exhibition at the city’s Museo del Prado.
Rather than grouping LGBTQ-themed art into one gallery, the museum has planned a series of new routes through its permanent collection that guides visitors to works that reflect on same-sex relationships and gender identity. Highlights include Caravaggio’s painting “David with the Head of Goliath” and the sculpture “Orestes and Pylades”, which dates back to the first century.
The Other’s Gaze. Spaces of Difference is on until September 10. More details at museodelprado.es.
The LGBTQ community in South Africa still lives in fear. “We’ve lost so many people to hate crimes, you never know if you’ll see someone again the next day,” artist Zanele Muholi says.
Muholi explores this discrimination in her art, which documents the lives of LGBTQ South Africans and the abuse they face daily. Featuring a selection of black-and-white self-portraits and Muholi’s striking photographs of lesbians and trans activists, this exhibition in Amsterdam is a stark reminder of the homophobia that still exists in many countries around the world.
Zanele Muholi is on until October 15. More details at stedelijk.nl.