Exploring Soho House’s collection of queer art


Christina Quarles, Holloway House

Global Art Director Kate Bryan aims to build a sense of community and provide emerging talent with a vital platform

Saturday 25 June 2022 By Osman Can Yerebakan

Collecting queer art is a work in progress, an intricate task of weaving through long-established gaps, errors and potential. Decades of neglect by the sector has hindered many artists in their attempts to transfer their work from the studio to public collections, while many emerging queer artists face challenges of financial stability, emotional oppression and prejudice.

Amid enduring prejudice against the LGBTQIA+ community in some parts of the world, the challenge of making individual voices heard can be a delicate one. For Kate Bryan, Soho House’s Global Art Director, the key is to project a generationally and geographically strong portrait of contemporary queer art. 


Veronica Leto, Soho House Nashville


Matthias Garcia, Soho House Paris

From art fairs to social media and graduate shows, Bryan is on a quest to discover and connect with new talent. ‘My most valuable source is other artists, because in close families, individuals support one another,’ she says. ‘Many artists collect works from their friends, and established names support emerging or overlooked colleagues, so my network grows through conversations with different artists. When I search [for] new names for the collection, I find myself guided by others I know.’

A sense of community is perhaps most evident in the wave of figurative works from new-generation queer artists. New York-based painters such as Doron Langberg and James Bartolacci depict experiences of intimacy and introspection – be they collective or individual – through portraits of their friends and lovers. Works by Langberg and Bartolacci, which are on view at Soho House Tel Aviv, Jaffa and Brighton Beach House respectively, are diaristic renditions of families chosen over time rather than handed down by birth.


Elmgreen and Dragset, Soho House Copenhagen

Visibility is key for Bryan in the representation of queer artists throughout each of Soho House’s clubs – and each club provides a space that could be described as uniquely private and public. ‘We don’t have pristine walls – one can eat, chat or even dance next to the art, and by virtue, all of our collection is on display,’ says Bryan. The nature of this public interaction – in contrast to works that are kept in a private living room or remote storage – grants artists a welcome connectivity, particularly for those who work in traditions that have been historically overlooked. 

An intergenerational juxtaposition in each House also allows for a deeper understanding of the trajectory that contemporary queer art has been following. A Simone Fattal watercolour, for example, sits not so far from an oil canvas by Matthias Garcia – two artists born generations apart, yet two voices tapping into notions of transcendence and mythology beyond the limits of figurative art. In another case, two artists from the same generation and the same geography can speak to distinct ways of being today: Christina Quarles’s semi-abstract lexicon on bodily expression joins Diedrick Brackens’s weaving on mediations of the body’s poetry.


Doron Langberg, Soho House Tel Aviv


James Bartolacci, Soho House Brighton Beach

Another critical approach to curation across the Houses, as Bryan notes, is locality, particularly in cities with more urgent need for queer visibility amid social and political challenges. Austin and Nashville, for example, are venues in which it is particularly important to use local artists’ work. ‘We ask the question of, “Whose voice needs to be amplified?”’ says Bryan. Commissioning Veronica Leto, a Nashville-based non-binary multimedia artist, for the bedrooms and the main hall in the Music City is not only, therefore, a curatorial choice but social positioning.

Different textures and histories of queerness are available across the Houses, from a text-based print on paper work, ‘Pleasure and Deficit’, by Tomboys Don’t Cry in Rome to Elmgreen & Dragset’s sleek and humorously erotic print ‘Ganymede (Jockstrap)’ in Copenhagen. Besides stemming from a sense of joyful anarchy and truthfulness to self, they revel in their narrative abundance, much like the experiences they manifest.

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