8 LGBTQ+ Works of Art to Travel For

8 LGBTQ+ Works of Art to Travel For
Bhupen Khakhar's Two Men in Benares, Photo Credit: Courtesy Sothebys.com

Art lovers, this Pride Month, we're sharing our favourite picks for you to add to your bucket list

Prannay Pathak
June 18 , 2021
10 Min Read

A couple of years ago, in the same month, painter Bhupen Khakhar's landmark work Two Men in Benares was sold for a record Rs 22.39 crore at a Sotheby's auction. Held as the culmination of the legendary artist's attempts to "create a new iconography of homosexual love", the 6ftX6ft painting depicts two men in the nude, ready to embrace each other in a corner of a scene that depicts everyday scenes in the cultural city of Varanasi.

Blending arousal and tenderness and the sexual and the sacred brilliantly through his bold choice of colour, Khakhar gave birth to a shocking new aesthetic and artistic voice. First unveiled in 1986, the painting has come to define depictions of homoeroticism in the contemporary art landscape.

While you may be able to view this work only virtually today, there are quite a few iconic works that have upended heteronormative codes of creating and viewing art, which you will want to add your bucket list. Gender bending and subversion of the gaze are nothing new to the history of art, but a few works do stand out from the rest for their unabashed depictions and subliminal messaging. We chose 8 such works from across eras and styles that you should start adding to your #travelgoals.

Take a look:

The Men's Bath House by Albrecht Durer at National Gallery of Art, Washington DC 

 
 
 
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It's hard to be certain of an artist's sexual orientation, especially when they come from the pre-modern age, but Durer's wholesome woodcut The Bath House is certainly a giveaway. Made in 1496, this work was made after an edict closed down all the bathhouses of Durer's native Nuremberg. The woodcut depicts a group of well-built men including the German printmaker himself, and his rumoured lover Willibald Pirckheimer at a local bath house.

Dancing Sailors by Charles Demuth, at MoMA, New York 
Notice the couple in the middle

Regarded widely as one of the modern masters of watercolours, the American painter Charles Demuth is known for the smart homoeroticism of his depictions. Dancing Sailors is an adroit exploration of the homoerotic undercurrents in lives led by men in supposedly masculine lines of work. It was common for sailors to dance with each other when women weren't present, and this scene conveys a tender moment between the dancing pair in the middle, clearly distinguishable from the other two on the sides.

Medallion by Gluck, at National Portrait Gallery, London 

 
 
 
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Born in 1895 in a wealthy family, over a decade before Frida Kahlo, as Hannah Gluckstein, the nonconformist, androgynous British painter Gluck was truly a trailblazer in the history of LGBTQ+ art. She went by just Gluck, painted iconic portraits and established a style whose intensity has not yet been matched.

In Medallion, also called YouWe, the artist painted a dual portrait of herself with her romantic interest, the American socialite Nesta Obermer, in an androgynous aesthetic that has come to be known as unquestionably Gluck.

Read: Museum Instagram: Art Lovers Unite

Self-Portrait with Cropped Hair by Frida Kahlo at MoMA, New York 

 
 
 
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A feminist icon whose legion only seems to expand, Frida Kahlo's repertoire is unparalleled in terms of her range of subjects and inimitable style. Her much-loved work Self-Portrait with Cropped Hair was made after her divorce with Diego Rivera. Kahlo's work stands out for its unique representation of gender and sexuality—in this portrait, Kahlo, along with her locks, snips away her feminine identity, in a foreshadowing of her embracing her bisexuality.

Gone are the flowers of her tresses and her famous Tehuana dresses. The decisive quality of the scene is heightened by the absolute suddenness of the move—the wearing of the oversized suit and a pair of scissors in her hands.

Sistine Chapel, Vatican City
Michelangelo was known to love the male form
Renaissance great Michelangelo's adoration of the male from is well-documented. This fascination and mastery over this branch of anatomy reaches its pinnacle in the Sistine Chapel in the Vatican City. The homoerotic current of these frescoes is hard to miss—the sexual energy in these scenes is suffused with a liberation rarely seen elsewhere. Be it The Last Judgment or Creation of Adam, or, better yet, the famous scene depicting Adam, Eve (who is unusually muscular), and the Serpent, the Sistine Chapel is a queer canvas of Biblical proportions.

Read: Pride Month Events You Can Join From Your Couch

Donatello's David at Accademia Gallery, Florence

 
 
 
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Most of us know only about Michelangelo's David, but the Biblical shepherd boy was a fashionable sculptural subject in the day. Donatello's rendition has been often seen as a fascinating exercise that lends greater insight into Donatello's sexual identity and contemporary Florentine and its homosocial codes.

This David, the first free-standing statue ever, and also the first statue in bronze, depicts the character as a prepubescent boy with a clearly androgynous form and manner. Unlike Michelangelo's version, this David has been given a more naturalistic physicality and body language by its creator. It's also said that Donatello modelled his subject's head after Antinous, the gay lover of Emperor Hadrian.

St Francis of Assissi in Ecstasy by Carravagio, Wadsworth Atheneum, Hartford, Connecticut
St Francis of Assissi in Ecstasy; an evocative work

Caravaggio is often thought to have attempted a deconstruction of the masculine styles of the day's male nudes in his works. The homoeroticism of his work shines from far away, just like in the much-loved painting St Francis of Assissi in Ecstasy.


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