Queer artists of color dominate 2021's must-see LGBTQ art shows

While the world’s top art museums – like everyone else – strive to return to a sense of normalcy after a year of pandemic-induced chaos, an exciting new landscape of LGBTQ-themed art exhibitions has emerged for 2021, where queer artists of color may be represented better than ever.

From emerging talents like Naima Green, Salman Toor and Shikeith to more established artists like Zanele Muholi, Julie Mehretu and Laura Aguilar, black and brown voices will represent a number of global exhibitions of queer artists in the coming months.

Here are the most current and upcoming shows that you should certainly do your best to see. Of course, museums are still subject to the ever-changing local lockdown restrictions. Temporary closings are detailed below and accurate at time of going to press, but are subject to changing pandemic winds.


Anastacia-Reneé: ‘(Don’t be absurd) Alice in parts’

Frye Art Museum, Seattle

Former Seattle Civic Poet and “queer super-shero of color” Anastacia-Reneé puts on a new show in the voice of her longtime character Alice Metropolis as she ponders and rages against gentrification and colonization, both literally and figuratively. The haunting installation is a stroll through Alice’s house and shows how she strives for wholeness against oppression. It contains a spiritual sanctuary dedicated to the writer Audre Lorde. Postponed from last year, the exhibition virtually opened January 30th (through April 25th; museum reopened on February 11th)


An untitled photo of Naima Green that will be part of the Brief and Drenching exhibition at Fotografiska in New York until April 18, 2021.Naima Green

Naima Green: “Brief & Drenching”

Fotografiska, New York

The first solo exhibition by Brooklyn-based artist Naima Green, which also honors Audre Lorde, whose title is taken from a line in “Zami: A New Spelling of My Name”, contains Green’s portrait project “Pur-Suit” of queer women. trans, non-binary and gender specific people. Also included is a redesign of her own apartment that serves as a theater for her incredibly intimate short film “The Intimacy of Before”. Can also be seen at the Fotografiska until February 28th “Notorious” The latest show from longtime gay provocative Andres Serrano, who uses more than 30 photographs of racist American artifacts to reflect the country’s dark recent past. (Until April 18th)


Salman Toor’s “Bar Boy” can be seen in the artist’s “How Will I Know” solo exhibition at the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York through April 4th.Courtesy Salman Toor

Salman Toor: “How do I know?”

Whitney Museum of American Art, New York

Salman Toor’s gorgeous show – also his first solo show at the museum – is postponed from her originally planned Whitney run last year by the pandemic, and explores the concept of community in the context of a strange, diasporic identity. Toor was born in Pakistan and lives in New York City. It offers a stylized insight into the imaginary life of young, strange brown men who live between two worlds. (Until April 4th)


“This wistful ship: Studiomuseum Artists in Residence 2019-20” can be seen until March 14, 2021 at MoMA PS1 in New York.Kris Graves

“This yearning vessel: Artists in Residence of the Studiomuseum”

MoMA PS1, New York

This joint presentation by the Studio Museum in Harlem and MoMA PS1 in Queens shows the radically intimate work of the up-and-coming creators E. Jane, Naudline Pierre and Elliot Reed, who use new media, performance and painting to cross the line between queerness and blackness explore. (Until March 14th)


Shikeith’s “Feeling the Spirit in the Dark” exhibition is on view at the Mattress Factory in Pittsburgh through March 31, 2021.Tom Little

Shikeith: Feeling the ghost in the dark

Mattress Factory, Pittsburgh

With a mixture of sculpture, photography, film and audio, the four installations by Pittsburgh-based concept artist Shikeith trace the history of blacks in sound and movement and explore the narrative of the beyond slavery – and what haunts black, queer people embodied by men – In modern society. (Until March 31st; reopening of the museum on February 10th)


“Busi Sigasa, Braamfontein, Johannesburg, 2006” can be seen until May 31, 2021 in an exhibition of Zanele Muholi’s photographs at the Tate Modern in London.Courtesy of Zanele Muholi

Zanele Muholi

Tate Modern, London

This first major UK survey of the phenomenal work of South African visual activist Zanele Muholi includes more than 260 photographs spanning the breadth of her career. Since the early 2000s, Muholi has documented and celebrated the lives of black LGBTQ people in South Africa, who, despite the promise of equality, continue to be the target of violence and prejudice. (Until May 31; museum currently closed until further notice)


John Edmonds’ 2019 photo “Holding aulpture (from the Ashanti)” is part of the “A Sidelong Glance” exhibition at the Brooklyn Museum in New York until August 8, 2021.Courtesy John Edmonds

John Edmonds: ‘A Sideways Glance’

Brooklyn Museum, New York

Photographer John Edmonds, who won the first UOVO award for an exceptional emerging Brooklyn artist, was invited to look directly at the Brooklyn Museum’s Arts of Africa collection, specifically objects from the estate of the late African American writer Ralph Ellison were donated. The resulting show, which includes portraits and still lifes with cameos by members of the Edmonds New York creative community, explores the intersections of representation, modernity and identity in the African diaspora. (Until August 8th)


“Tony Only: Portraits of Gilbert Lewis” is on view at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Art in Pittsburgh through September 5, 2021.Barbara Katus

“Tony Only”: Portraits of Gilbert Lewis

Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, Philadelphia

Philadelphia artist Gilbert Lewis has long been a staple of the city’s art scene, but his sensitive portrait work has so far been underexposed in local museums, despite being significant in the national lexicon of gay male art. This show, and its roughly 25 pieces, is centered on a model, Tony, whom Lewis painted several times in the 1980s. (Until September 5th)


Laura Aguilar’s photo “At Home with the Nortes” from 1990 can be seen until May 9, 2021 in the exhibition “Laura Aguilar: Show and Tell” at the Leslie Lohman Museum in New York.Courtesy 2016 Laura Aguilar Trust and the UCLA Chicano Studies Research Center

‘Laura Aguilar: Show and Tell’

Leslie-Lohman Art Museum, New York

This first comprehensive retrospective of the work of Southern California photographer Laura Aguilar features more than 70 works spanning three decades that contain honest depictions of Aguilar herself, her friends and family, and various LGBTQ and Latinx communities. This includes Aguilar’s powerful and best-known piece “Three Eagles Flying” from the 1990s, which formed the basis for future works in which she rebelled with her naked body against the racist, gender-specific, cultural and sexual colonization of Latinx identities. (Until May 9th)


Toyin Ojih Odutola: “A Compensation Theory”

Kunsten Museum of Modern Art, Aalborg, Denmark

In her first exhibition in Scandinavia, artist Toyin Ojih Odutola, who was born in Nigeria and lives in New York, is presenting around 40 brand-new works that were specially created for this exhibition. Each piece is an episode in the narrative of a mythical ancient Nigerian civilization dominated by women rulers and challenging preconceived notions of history, culture, gender, sexuality and race. (March 2nd – May 30th)


Christina Quarles’ “The Color of the Sky (Magical Hour)” is part of an exhibition of the artist’s work from March 13 to August 29, 2021 at the Chicaco Museum of Contemporary Art.Courtesy Christina Quarles

Christina Quarles

Chicago Museum of Contemporary Art

Los Angeles-based artist Christina Quarles’ work explores the universal experience of existence in a body and the ways in which race, gender and sexuality intersect to form our complex identities. This largest presentation of her work to date will bring together a selection of works from the past three years as well as a new large-format installation that explores the illusions and stories of painting. (March 13th – August 29th)


David Hockney: “The Arrival of Spring, Normandy, 2020”

Royal Academy of Arts, London

A decade after first starting producing art on his iPad in 2010, David Hockney took advantage of the start of the pandemic last spring to create a plethora of works that focus on the regenerative beauty of the season, such as that found at his home in Normandy can be seen. This Royal Academy exhibition brings together 116 of these pieces and shows the wonder and renewal of the natural world. (March 27th – August 22nd)


Julie Mehretu

Whitney Museum of American Art, New York

Following her debut at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, this comprehensive retrospective by Ethiopian-born queer artist Julie Mehretu is coming to New York in March. The exhibition spans the first two decades of Mehretu’s work, which uses large and often multi-layered abstract landscapes to examine topics such as colonialism, capitalism, geopolitics, war, diaspora, and displacement. (March 25th – August 8th)


Reigning Queens: The Lost Photos of Roz Joseph is an ongoing virtual exhibition of Joseph’s images of drag culture in San Francisco in the mid-1970s.Courtesy of the GLBT Historical Society

“Reigning Queens: The Lost Photos of Roz Joseph”

“Angela Davis: pronounced”

GLBT Historical Society, San Francisco

California museums may be largely closed right now due to pandemic restrictions. In two recently launched online exhibitions, the GLBT Historical Society in San Francisco is presenting virtual versions of two wonderful, pre-assembled physical shows. The first is a collection of photographs by Roz Joseph to document the drag culture of San Francisco in the mid-1970s. In the second part, rare posters and ephemera from the Lisbet Tellefsen Collection are brought together to present the life of the queer black freedom fighter Angela Davis. (Virtual, ongoing)

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