The Art of Looking: The Life and Treasures of Charles Leslie is the book I have been waiting for all my life. Not only is it packed with an enormous number of images from Leslie's collection (and completely uncensored); it also tells the story of the remarkably handsome and sexy Charles Leslie.
Included in the book are a number of essays that cover Leslie's legendary personality, his 48-year relationship with Fritz Lohman, and his varied and quite active sex life. Leslie is a pre-Sexual Revolution-ary free thinker. He also has the world's largest — wait for it — collection of phalli.
Charles Leslie and Fritz Lohman began showing and collecting art in their Soho loft in 1969 to provide an outlet for gay artists. With an attendance of over 200 people at their first weekend exhibition, they quickly realized there was a need for this type of venue in the community.
During the 1980s, with the rise of AIDS and the death of so many artists and collectors, Charles and Fritz realized that many important works of art were being destroyed by families who, because they didn't know what to do with this type of art or didn't want to acknowledge the sexuality of their loved ones, threw amazing collections of art into the trash. Charles and Fritz knew these works had to be preserved.
This need for a safe haven for art that is often excluded or looked down upon led them to create the Leslie/Lohman Gay Art Foundation, a nonprofit organization, in 1987. Since then, the organization has grown from a small "underground" gallery on New York City's Prince Street to its present spacious location at 26 Wooster St., housing the Leslie Lohman Museum of Gay and Lesbian Art.
Best-selling author Kevin Clarke (Beards: An Unshaved History, Porn: From Warhol to X-Tube) has written and edited a book that gives the content the authority it deserves, and his detailed history of Leslie helps us understand that we are what we collect.
Soldiers in the South Pacific
American painter · 1918-2014, Drawing on paper
12 × 18", 1942-45, Founder’s gift
Italian painter, sculptor, ceramicist, photographer · * 1936 Oil & pencil on canvas
43 × 58.75", 1985, Gift of the artist