16 LGBTQ art shows worth traveling for in early 2020

This year is already shaping up as one of the strongest and most visible ever for queer creativity at the world's top museums.
Keith Haring, American 1958-90, Untitled 1982.
Keith Haring, American 1958-90, Untitled 1982.Keith Haring Foundation
By Dan Allen

Last year's global glut of major LGBTQ-themed art shows may have seemed a Stonewall 50-induced fluke, but 2020 is already shaping up as one of the strongest and most visible years ever for queer creativity at the world's top museums. From the Bronx to Bangkok to Berlin, the next few months will teem with exhibitions spotlighting some of the best in LGBTQ art — from exciting up-and-coming creators like Shahryar Nashat and Meg Turner, to established artists in their prime like Kent Monkman and Julie Mehretu, to innovative retrospectives of true art icons like Keith Haring and Francis Bacon.


Alvin Baltrop, Marsha P. Johnson, n.d. (1975-1986)The Alvin Baltrop Trust

The Life and Times of Alvin Baltrop

Bronx Museum, New York

The gritty photographs of Bronx native Alvin Baltrop captured the freewheeling gay spirit of the just-post-Stonewall era in New York City, especially as it flourished in the derelict warehouses along the waterfront of downtown's West Side Piers. This show features more than 200 Baltrop shots that include portraits of queer icons Marsha P. Johnson and Robert Mapplethorpe, as well as the artist's personal archive, shown here to the public for the first time. (Through Feb. 9)


Derek Jarman.Leonardo Cendamo / Getty Images file

Derek Jarman PROTEST!

Irish Museum of Modern Art, Dublin

One of the most influential queer filmmakers of all time, Derek Jarman gets this major retrospective of his wider work as a painter, writer, set designer, music video maker, gardener and AIDS-era political activist. After Dublin, the Jarman show will move on to its presenting partner Manchester Art Gallery in the U.K. from April 2 to Aug. 31. (Through Feb. 23)


Cindy Aquino, Bond.Cindy Aquino

SPECTROSYNTHESIS II – Exposure of Tolerance: LGBTQ in Southeast Asia

Bangkok Art and Culture Centre

The sequel to Taiwan's groundbreaking SPECTROSYNTHESIS show in 2017, this largest-ever survey of Southeast Asian queer-themed art features works from 58 artists from across the region and beyond, including Malaysia's Anne Samat, Thailand's Arin Rungjang, the Philippines' Cindy Aquino, China's Ren Hang, India's Balbir Krishan, and Vietnamese-American Dinh Q. Lê. (Through March 1)


TransTrans - SchwulesThe Trustees of Indiana University on behalf of the Kinsey Institute

TransTrans: Transatlantic Transgender Histories

Schwules Museum, Berlin

During the first half of the last century, a network of trans people on both sides of the Atlantic exchanged letters and photographs with each other, thereby creating communities. They also shared their stories with medical professionals, and in so doing profoundly shaped the emerging studies of sexuality and gender identity. This first-of-its-kind show traces the connections between these individuals, and with the doctors and scientists with whom they interacted. (Through March 2)


Installation view of Queer Abstraction at the Nerman Museum of Contemporary ArtEG Schempf

Queer Abstraction

Nerman Museum of Contemporary Art, Overland Park, Kansas

Organized by the Des Moines Art Center (which mounted it last year), this groundbreaking show is one of the first to assemble contemporary queer artists who use the boundless possibilities of abstraction to convey what it means to exist on the margins. Among the featured artists are Tom Burr, Carrie Moyer, Prem Sahib, Harmony Hammond, Math Bass and Elijah Burgher. (Through March 8)


Julie Mehretu, Stadia II, 2004, ink and acrylic on canvas.Julie Mehretu / photograph courtesy of the Carne

Julie Mehretu

Los Angeles County Museum of Art

This comprehensive midcareer retrospective of Ethiopian-born queer artist Julie Mehretu covers the first two decades of her work, which, through her hallmark large and often multilayered abstract landscapes, examines themes like colonialism, capitalism, geopolitics, war, diaspora and displacement. After Los Angeles, the show will move on to New York's Whitney Museum from June 26 to Sept. 20. (Through March 22)

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Kent Monkman poses with one of his large-scale history paintings called The Scream.Randy Risling / Toronto Star via Getty Images file

Kent Monkman: Mistikôsiwak (Wooden Boat People)

The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

Known for his multimedia works that explore colonization, sexuality, loss and resilience, Canadian First Nations artist Kent Monkman has created two monumental paintings for The Met's Great Hall, part of the museum's new series of contemporary commissions inspired by its collection. As usual, Monkman's work is graced by Miss Chief Eagle Testickle, his gender-fluid, shape-shifting, time-traveling alter ego who nimbly reverses the colonial gaze. (Through April 9)


"Meg Turner: Here and Now," 2019. Installation view: Contemporary Arts Center, New Orleans.Jonathan Traviesa

Meg Turner: Here and Now

Contemporary Arts Center, New Orleans

The work of New Orleans-based queer artist Meg Turner combines portraiture, propaganda and analog technologies to confront and celebrate expectations of utopia. This first solo museum exhibition of her work includes more than 100 tintype portraits of artists, activists, teachers, friends, lovers and acquaintances, all invited, via sets and landscapes, to embody the politics of gender, sexuality and economic autonomy they desire. (Through April 12)


Keith Haring, American 1958-90, Untitled 1982.Keith Haring Foundation

Keith Haring | Jean-Michel Basquiat: Crossing Lines

National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne

Keith Haring and Jean-Michel Basquiat were not only two of the most significant and influential artists of the late 20th century, they were also close friends and sometime collaborators who both died tragically young at 31. This extraordinary world premiere exhibition looks at the works and languages of both artists, and reveals the fascinating intersections between their lives, practices and ideas. (Through April 19)


Robert Giard, Five Members of Other Countries - The Center, N.Y.C, 1987.Courtesy Stephen Bulger Gallery

Uncanny Effects: Robert Giard’s Currents of Connection

Leslie-Lohman Museum, New York

Photographer Robert Giard is best known for his invaluable Particular Voices archive of portraits of gay and lesbian writers in the last years of the 20th century. This show presents many of those portraits, and by revealing the relationships he forged across artistic communities to create them, provides context for the lives Giard documented. Also shown are samples of Giard's other works, including nudes, still lives and landscapes. (Jan. 22 - April 19)


From left, Shahryar Nashat and Adam Linder.Will Davidson

Shahryar Nashat: Force Life and Adam Linder: Shelf Life

Museum of Modern Art, New York

New works by artist Shahryar Nashat and choreographer Adam Linder, who are partners, appear together and in dialogue here, alternating throughout the day, as inaugural commissions for MoMA's new 4th floor Marie-Josée and Henry Kravis Studio. Nashat's Force Life considers the way art is experienced, while Linder's Shelf Life explores the finite life forces that create dance. (Feb. 1 - March 8)


Sadie Benning, Untitled seq 9b, 2019. Wood, photographic transparencies, aqua resin and resin.Courtesy Sadie Benning and Vielmetter

Sadie Benning: Pain Thing

Wexner Center for the Arts, Columbus, Ohio

First gaining art-world attention for their low-tech but urgent experimental videos in the 1990s, Sadie Benning has for the last decade concentrated on gallery-based projects that blend photography, sculpture and painting to explore themes like gender, ambiguity, transgression, surveillance, intimacy and identity. Their new single-installation show consists of 63 small wood panels grouped into 19 separately titled sequences, extending through two of the Wexner Center's galleries. (Feb. 1 – April 26)


Francis Bacon, Study for Portrait, 1981, oil and dry transfer lettering on canvas, private collection.The Estate of Francis Bacon

Francis Bacon: Late Paintings

Museum of Fine Arts, Houston

Organized by Paris' Centre Pompidou (where the show wraps on Jan. 20), this exhibition focuses on the final two decades of works by the gay, Irish-born British painter Francis Bacon, featuring some 40 canvases that include several of the artist's large triptychs. It's the first show of Bacon's work from this period in the U.S., and the first American survey of Bacon in more than a decade. (Feb. 23 – May 25)


David Hockney, "Gregory. Los Angeles. March 31st 1982" Composite polaroid.Richard Schmidt

David Hockney: Drawing from Life

National Portrait Gallery, London

London's beloved and queer-positive National Portrait Gallery recently announced it will close for three years of renovations on June 29 — just days after London Pride, when the NPG always spotlights LGBTQ-themed works among its vast holdings. Before it shuts its doors, the museum will present the first major showcase of David Hockney's drawings in over 20 years. (Feb. 27 - June 28)


Cecil Beaton by Paul Tanqueray.National Portrait Gallery London

Cecil Beaton’s Bright Young Things

National Portrait Gallery, London

In addition to its Hockney showcase, the National Portrait Gallery will feature an exploration of the Bohemian — and decidedly queer-inclusive — 1920s and '30s British socialite set known as Bright Young Things, as seen through the lens of photographer Cecil Beaton. (March 12 - June 7)

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