Scroll To Top

BOOKS: The Ultimate Art Collector

BOOKS: The Ultimate Art Collector


Charles Leslie has lived a glamorous life and amassed a huge collection of LGBT art. Kevin Clarke's art-packed book tells his story. Then there are also a lot of naked guys.


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.

Here is the Amazon link, and for more information go to Bruno Gmunder. Below and on the following pages are images of the art, the magnificant Soho loft, and the life of Charles Leslie.


1945soldiers-in-the-south-pacific-hrx633_0 BERNARD PERLIN
Soldiers in the South Pacific
American painter * 1918-2014, Drawing on paper
12 x 18", 1942-45, Founder's gift

Silombria0001x633_0_0 MARCO SILOMBRIA
Terrace II
Italian painter, sculptor, ceramicist, photographer * * 1936 Oil & pencil on canvas
43 x 58.75", 1985, Gift of the artist

Hanky Panky
American painter * 1953-92, Acrylic on canvas 40.5 x 54.25", 1980
(c) Douglas Turnbaugh Founder's gift

Bliss-005x633_0 ROBERT BLISS
Reclining Figure
Oil on board 24 x 36" 1963, Anonymous donor

Koppel01x633_0 ROLF KOPPEL
Self Portrait Reclining
American photographer, born in Germany * * 1937 Silver gelatin print
12.75" o
Gift of the artist

Frenchacademic006x633_0 FRENCH ACADEMIC DRAWING
Untitled, Charcoal on paper 30 x 25'', 19th Century
Founder's gift

Homage to Von Gloeden, Dutch Painter * 1954, Oil on paper 17 x 13", 1998
Gift of the artist

Howe2014-164-1-editx633_0 DELMAS HOWE
Picnic in the Grass
American painter * 1935, Oil on canvas 48 x 60", 1979
Gift of Angela Tese-Milner

Harter-cocktailx633_0 JOHN BURTON HARTER
Cocktail Party, American painter * 1940-2002, Oil on masonite 28.25 x 33.75", 1994
Gift of the artist

Lewis-gilbert-010x633_0 GILBERT LEWIS
Swimmer, American painter * 1945, Gouache on board 63.75 x 44", 1984
Founder's gift

Hiranox633_0 GO HIRANO
Japanese painter * ca. 1912 Pencil on paper 10 x 14.25", ca. 1980,
Founder's gift

Pintoroundx633_0 MARION PINTO
Male Odalisque
American painter * 1935 - 2010, Oil on canvas 78" o, 1974
Estate of the artist

Pollack-gordon-lyle-008x633_0 GORDON LYLE POLLACK
Nocturnal Submission, American painter Oil on canvas 16 x 20", 1980
Gift of Leonard Paoletti

American illustrator & fabric designer * 1924 - 1999, Ink on paper 15 x 17", 1950s
Founder's gift


Cl-1_0003x633_0 MEN OF ATHENS
A work by Greek painter Michail Tsakountis, parked in Charles's apartment. It was part of the exhibition "Men of Athens," curated by Charles Leslie in 2014.


Cl-2_0005x633_0 The living room of Charles Leslie's apartment in Soho. On the back wall, a double portrait of Charles and his partner, Fritz Lohman, painted by Marion Pinto in 1974.

Cl-2_0041x633_0 THE MASTER'S BEDROOM
The walls in Charles's bedroom, showing Gilbert Lewis's painting Resting (1982), of a man sitting on a chair in the nude.



Charles_21x633_0 JUVENILE LEAD
Head shot of Charles Leslie taken by Maurice Blackman, a famous theater photographer of the late 1950s.

Charles_thomas_mannx633_0 MEETING THOMAS MANN
The outfit in which Charles met Thomas Mann in 1955 after a performance of Mime Vignettes, in the Green Room of the Kurhaus in Scheveningen. To Charles, it was just a little flirtation that ended with Mann punching him in the butt. Because Mann wrote about the encounter in his diaries, this meeting became immortal. Funnily enough, Charles was reading The Magic Mountain at the time.

Charles_23x633_0 A NIGHT ON THE TOWN
Getting cleaned up and ready to seduce his superiors so he would be sent to Europe instead of Korea.

Charles_2x633_0 MOROCCAN DRAG
Forget the Red Shadow: Charles in 1956, after he came back from Morocco.

Charles_fritz5x633_0THERE'S NO CURE LIKE TRAVEL
Charles and Fritz, traveling around the world with friends. Here they can be seen in Venice, the Greek island of Delos, camel riding in Egypt, and sitting on the stairs of Taormina, Sicily.


2006_fritz_33x633_0PARTING GLANCES
Charles and Fritz, who suffered terribly from arthritis. The medication was massive doses of cortisone, which made Fritz gain a lot of weight. The last 10 years of his life were difficult. He died at the end of 2009.

01charles-leslie-01x633_0 CHARLES LESLIE
The art collector sitting amid his private collection in Soho, with Kim David Smith posing as a "classical nude," photographed by Alex Geana. Geana will have his first one-man show at the Prince Street Project Space in 2015.

Advocate Channel - The Pride StoreOut / Advocate Magazine - Fellow Travelers & Jamie Lee Curtis

From our Sponsors

Most Popular

Latest Stories

Christopher Harrity

Christopher Harrity is the Manager of Online Production for Here Media, parent company to The Advocate and Out. He enjoys assembling online features on artists and photographers, and you can often find him poring over the mouldering archives of the magazines.
Christopher Harrity is the Manager of Online Production for Here Media, parent company to The Advocate and Out. He enjoys assembling online features on artists and photographers, and you can often find him poring over the mouldering archives of the magazines.