Over the last seven years, since the opening of Hide/Seek: Difference and Desire in American Portraiture
at the National Portrait Gallery in Washington D.C., there has been a growing number of museum exhibitions looking at LGBTQ life, culture, art, and politics, both in the U.S. and abroad. As Hunter O’Hanian, executive director of the College Art Association, has noted, this may be best exemplified by recent and upcoming retrospectives on LGBTQ artists in major cultural institutions—for example, The Perfect Medium,
a pair of exhibitions on Robert Mapplethorpe at LACMA and the Getty Museum; a retrospective on Romaine Brooks at the Smithsonian American Art Museum; an upcoming retrospective on David Wojnarowicz at the Whitney Museum of Art; as well as AIDS/Art/America,
most recently on view in Chicago, and Queer British Art
opening in 2017
at the Tate Britain.
At the same time, there is growing interest in exhibitions and museums featuring LGBTQ social and political history. In October 2016, for example, the Museum of the City of New York opened Gay Gotham: Art and Underground Culture
—the first survey exhibition on the city’s LGBTQ history since Becoming Visible
at the New York Public Library in 1994. These are only some examples of the many LGBTQ-themed exhibitions that have appeared in museums, libraries, and galleries in recent years, including those at LGBTQ-dedicated galleries and museums such as the Leslie-Lohman Museum of Gay and Lesbian Art and the ONE Gallery in Los Angeles. There are also efforts underway to establish a national LGBT history museum in New York City, and in February 2017, the Board of Supervisors of San Francisco gave their support for the creation of an independent New Museum of LGBTQ History and Culture in San Francisco, building on years of work by the GLBT Historical Society and the GLBT History Museum.
This roundtable takes the growth of LGBTQ-themed exhibitions and stand-alone museums—what might be called the queering of the museum—as an opportunity to explore challenges both familiar and new around the representation of LGBTQ histories and communities, including questions of gender, race, class, and sexual inclusivity; hetero and homonormativity; censorship; the connections between politics and culture; and the relationship between academic research and public humanities. Don Romesburg will explore how recent exhibitions at the GLBT History Museum in San Francisco drew connections between the past and present to help visitors imagine new possibilites for resistance and innovation in the future. Gonzalo Casals will reflect on the history and ongoing work of the Leslie-Lohman Museum as a model for cultural engagement and civic participation amidst a hostile political climate; Jeanne Vaccaro will explore two recent projects centering transgender art, highlighting artistic process and the potential violence of institutionalization, categorization, and curation; and Stephen Vider will explore his exhibition on AIDS and the politics of home to consider how exhibitions can bridge LGBTQ art, social, and political history. Tara Burk, a scholar on LGBTQ art history and activism, will serve as chair and commenter.