Gay Gotham (2016)

Editor: Jonathon Sturgeon

Gay Gotham,” the Museum of the City of New York‘s new show opening Friday, October 7, surveys the “queer networks” that thrived throughout the 20th century by tracking the lives of ten artists. Backed by its occasional history lessons, the exhibition delivers on its promise; yet a closer reading reveals a fiercely splintered history marked by individual commitments and glaring reminders that even the queer community isn’t exempt from issues of race, class, and gender.

The show opens with the first half of the century in the second floor gallery, featuring works and personal documents by Harlem Renaissance artist Richard Bruce Nugent; Hollywood-entrenched playwright Mercedes de Acosta; modernist impresario Lincoln Kirstein; New York intelligentsia photographer George Platt Lynes, and the beleaguered composer Leonard Bernstein. Though informative, it’s hard not to read this selection of artists as arbitrary representatives of their moments.

Under the Visible Subcultures sub-section, for instance, a text highlights Mabel Dodge and her come-one-come-all home salon of “bohemianism, radicalism, and sexual freedom.” Nearby, another text on the Harlem Renaissance describes Carl Van Vechten as a “publicity ambassador” for inviting fellow white New Yorkers to participate in the uptown community. Regrettably, both sections read as footnotes to the exhibition.

Read the full review on artnet News.