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5 Late LGBTQ+ Artists Finally Getting Their Due

LGBTQ+ artists have long been excluded from popular narratives and public recognition both in art history and the art market. But in recent years, as the art world at large reevaluates its relationship to the past and revises the canon, several previously overlooked names have begun to receive overdue attention from institutions, galleries, auction houses, and collectors. 

Here, we spotlight five LGBTQ+ artists who, while not fully appreciated during their lifetimes, are being recognized posthumously in the art world today. 

Martin Wong

B. 1946, Portland, Oregon. D. 1999, San Francisco.

Chinese American artist Martin Wong is known for his vivid realist and symbolic works that reflect on urban life and multicultural identities. Wong’s works primarily focus on his surrounding environment, especially New York’s Lower East Side, and also explore themes of race, identity, and sexuality. 

Wong’s first solo exhibition was held in 1984 at New York gallery Semaphore, where he also had exhibitions in 1985 and ’86. In the late ’80s and ’90s, he exhibited widely in group shows in New York and across the United States, and held a few more solo shows—including at Frank Bernaducci Gallery, EXIT ART, and the Pyramid Club, plus a Public Art Fund commission in Times Square. In 1993, he held his first solo show with New York gallery P.P.O.W, which went on to champion Wong’s work ever since, and now represents his estate. 

It wasn’t until after the artist’s death of AIDS-related causes in 1999 that Wong’s work received wider attention. His 2015 retrospective at the Bronx Museum of the Arts, “Martin Wong: Human Instamatic,” led to a reassessment of Wong’s contributions and increased his visibility in the art world. In late 2022, the first extensive touring exhibition of Wong’s work in Europe, titled “Martin Wong: Malicious Mischief,” debuted at the Centro de Arte Dos de Mayo in Madrid, and traveled to the KW Institute for Contemporary Art in Berlin earlier this year; it opens this month at the Camden Art Centre in London and then goes on to the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam.

A new auction record was set for the artist’s work in 2022 when Quong Yuen Shing & Co (1992) sold for $1.3 million at Bonhams. Last month, Phillips auctioned a pair of works by the artist, Mandala and St. Joseph’s (both 1988), which both solidly beat their mid-estimates, selling for $63,500 and $190,500, respectively.