Confronting the Erasure of LGBT Art
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Published in: November-December 2022 issue.


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Protest at the Corcoran Gallery in Washington after the cancellation of
Robert Mapplethorpe: The Perfect Moment in 1989. Frank Herrera photo.

Another example takes us back to the first Warhol retrospective at MOMA, in 1989, which excluded all of his groundbreaking gay-inflected work. Or take the 1999 exhibit titled The American Century at the Whitney, which avoided all mention of the gay artists’ sexuality except when they had a connection to AIDS. Robert Mapplethorpe’s exhibition The Perfect Moment, which opened at Washington’s Corcoran Gallery weeks after the artist’s death from AIDS in 1989, was canceled when Senator Jesse Helms succeeded in shutting it down as “obscene.” Following this scandal, the art establishment largely knuckled under to pressure from conservatives, mounting no major museum exhibition of queer art until Hide / Seek two decades later.

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Ignacio Darnaude is an art writer, lecturer and film producer. He is currently developing the docuseries Hiding in Plain Sight: Breaking the Queer Code in Art.