Celebrate LGBTQ Pride at These Powerful U.S. Art Exhibits

These compelling exhibits feature artwork focused on—and created by—members of the LGBTQ community.

Celebrate LGBTQ Pride at These Powerful U.S. Art Exhibits

“Proposals on Queer Play and the Ways Forward” on view at the Institute of Contemporary Art, University of Pennsylvania.

Photo by Constance Mensh

Queer art has a long and tangled history of censorship, which makes it all the more meaningful to commemorate the contributions of LGBTQ artists during Pride month.

This June, exhibitions from New York City to San Francisco and Chicago to Los Angeles celebrate an array of distinct perspectives from LGBTQ artists. But this artwork is worth appreciating beyond the confines of one month—here are eight must-see U.S. art exhibitions highlighting queer creativity and perspectives to visit throughout Pride month and, of course, beyond.


Photographer Jason Rodgers is one of 95 artists displaying work at the “Cast of Characters” exhibition.

Photo by Jason Rodgers

Cast of Characters

June 14–September 16, 2018; Bureau of General Services—Queer Division, New York City

The Bureau of General Services—Queer Division and The Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Community Center present this salon-style exhibition featuring portraiture artworks by 95 queer artists, both emerging and established. Curated by artist Liz Collins, the colorfully decorated event space and bookstore will serve as a celebratory site for viewers to be exposed to and immersed in a broad representation of the LGBTQ experience.

David Hockney: 82 Portraits and 1 Still-life

April 15–July 29, 2018; LACMA, Los Angeles

World-renowned artist David Hockney often explores the nature of queer relationships—gay love, specifically—in his artwork. This exhibit offers an intimate view of the friends, colleagues, relatives, and lovers Hockney grew closest to over the past 50 years with a collection of painted portraits that were completed in his Los Angeles studio. LACMA will be the only U.S. host of this exhibition, which originated at the Royal Academy of Arts in London and has traveled to Melbourne, Venice, and Bilbao.


Artist Jamil Hellu created “100 Years of Solitude” in response to the anti-LGBTQ law passed in Russia in 2013.

Photo by Jamil Hellu (2014)

A History of Violence

June 7–June 28, 2018; SOMArts, San Francisco

The Queer Cultural Center presents this multidisciplinary exhibition at San Francisco’s SOMArts as part of the 2018 National Queer Arts Festival. Curated by Rudy Lemcke, the collection delves into the “social and political context of violence against and within queer communities” through the work of 15 artists who “have gazed deeply into the flame of violence, and reacted in ways that allow us a compelling look into queer existence.”

Out for the Camera: The Self-Portraits of Leonard Fink

January 24—August 5, 2018; Leslie-Lohman Museum of Gay and Lesbian Art, New York City

The photographer Leonard Fink documented scenes from bars, streets, and abandoned piers during a formative period for the LGBTQ community: The 1970s and ’80s in New York City’s West Village. Fink’s intimate images serve as the center of this exhibition curated by Jonathan Weinberg, selected from a collection of more than 25,000 images at the LGBT Community Center National History Archive.

Keith Haring: The Chicago Mural

March 3—September 23, 2018; Chicago Cultural Center, Chicago

In 1989, prolific artist Keith Haring worked with 500 students from Chicago’s public schools to paint a 488-foot-long mural in Grant Park. The project carried a social message—as did the majority of Haring’s work—and was one of more than 50 public pieces the artist created throughout his career. Nine months after completing the Chicago mural, Haring died of AIDS-related complications. This free exhibition at the Chicago Cultural Center features 36 panels from Haring’s original Chicago mural alongside a collection of photographs, designs, drawings, and more.


Photographer Luke Austin’s portraiture work focuses on the beauty and vulnerability of male youth.

Photo by Luke Austin

Queer Biennial 2018: “What If Utopia”

June 1—June 30, 2018; NAVEL, Los Angeles

The third incarnation of L.A.’s Queer Biennial is set to the titular theme “What If Utopia.” It asks featured LGBTQ artists to imagine their own landscapes of a queer paradise. The exhibition includes art installations, live performances, and historical documentations that explore how the exhibiting artists “envision ways of seeing and being seen.” Various one-off events—from film screenings to dinner parties—occur throughout the month.

Proposals on Queer Play and the Ways Forward

February 2—August 12, 2018; Institute of Contemporary Art at the University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia

Curated by artist Nayland Blake, this contemporary exhibit explores how the growing influence of digital technologies has created new possibilities for queer identity and expression in the context of interracial desire, same-sex love, and racial and sexual bigotry. Note: The content of this show may not be suitable for all audiences.


Installation view of “Project 42: Jono Vaughan” at the Seattle Art Museum. © Seattle Art Museum.

Photo by Natali Wiseman

Project 42

April 21—August 5, 2018; Seattle Art Museum, Seattle

On view at the Seattle Art Museum, artist Jono Vaughan’s chilling project raises awareness about the violence that transgender people face regularly. Named for the short life expectancy of trans individuals in the United States, the series features a display of colorful garments and backdrops with a shocking significance: The patterns are based on screen shots of Google Earth locations where trans individuals have lost their lives to violence. The poignant art survey is intended to serve as both a memorial and an entry point for conversation.

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