In celebration of queer canvases

An exclusive look at five master works by LGBTQ+ artists in the Soho House collection

By Kate Bryan  Above artwork by Hal Fischer   Friday 26 June, 2020   Short read

To celebrate Pride, Kate Bryan, Head of Collections for Soho House, selects and details five key artworks in the collection that have been created by LGBTQ+ artists from around the world.

1. ‘Keys’ by Hal Fischer (above)
In 1977, the American artist Hal Fischer created a pioneering body of work entitled Gay Semiotics. Taken from his time living in San Francisco’s vibrant gay communities, the poker-faced photographic series uses overlaid text to humorously deconstruct the gay experience. ‘Decoding’ street fashion, sexual practices, signs and codes using language from instruction manuals, Fischer’s work created an irreverent kind of gay vernacular. The works borrow from both advertising and the structuralist theory, creating something entirely new that transcends parody and has become an important piece of gay visual history. This work, ‘Keys’, sits in the blue dining room of 40 Greek Street in London.
An abstract painting of two people having sex.
2. ‘Eve/Drawing/Videowork 1’ by Florence Peake (above)
Florence Peake is a London-based performance artist who uses drawing, painting and sculpture to underscore her practice. This painting on canvas paper is part of an ongoing collaboration with Eve Stainton, which explores the expressive potentialities of queer bodies through intimacy, touch and collective reclaiming. The performance took place at London’s Royal Academy of Arts and elevated the marginalised affection, sexuality, power and energies within non-normative relationships. The painting is on display at Dean Street Townhouse in London.
A painting of naked men sitting by a swimming pool.
A drawing of two people in a bedroom.
3. ‘Prohibition Cock Tale (Fiddlers On The Roof)’ by Cary Kwok (above left)
Cary Kwok is an artist who’s known for his exquisite ballpoint pen drawings. Born and raised in Hong Kong, he moved to London in the mid-1990s. He spent six years at Central Saint Martins art and design college studying fashion at BA and MA levels. His education in fashion underpins much of his art, often drawing exquisite period costumes, and footwear is a favoured subject. Kwok’s detailed drawings evoke a glamorous, alternative universe of sexual equality and supreme unashamed beauty. Unapologetic in their explicit sexual content, he employs realism, humour and fantasy in his beguiling narratives. This drawing is on display at Soho House Hong Kong, a collection comprised solely of work by artists born or based in the city.


4. ‘Fuck Me On The Middle Walk 15’ by Hannah Quinlan and Rosie Hastings (above right)
Hannah Quinlan and Rosie Hastings are a British artistic duo whose practice includes drawing, CGI animation, video installation, archival, text, and audio work. They are known for their meticulous drawings portraying heroic characters on the cusp of love or violence. Their work critically examines the politics, histories and aesthetics of queer spaces. And it shines a light on a complex terrain in which questions of class, nationalism, gentrification and patriarchy often collide, particularly in the shadow of Brexit. This drawing is part of a 15-part series that explored Blackpool, a British seaside town with a rich LGBTQ+ history in a state of decline. As part of our platform created for young artists working in London, 40 under 40, this work is on display at Redchurch Townhouse.

'[The] work critically examines the politics, histories and aesthetics of queer spaces... and shines a light on a complex terrain in which questions of class, nationalism, gentrification and patriarchy often collide'

An elderly woman standing in front of a rainbow flag.
A drag queen reclining on the side of a fountain.
5. ‘Franco’s Time’ by Gökhan Bu and Ümit Sural (above)
In 2018, the artists Gökhan Bu and Ümit Sural, who had recently relocated from Istanbul to Barcelona, made a body of work to honour the history of Garraf beach, the site of the new Little Beach House. Entitled ‘Franco’s Time’, the duo photographed members of the queer community who had sought shelter at the beach in the dictatorship, an area that was known for gay activity in a repressed society. They featured key figures such as Armand de Fluvià, one of the first gay activists in Spain who had to hide his face during the first LGBTQ+ protests in the city. Bu and Sural also staged a shoot in Plaça Reial with Manuel and Abel, two of the oldest drag queens in Catalonia who are still working in the iconic bar, Ocaña. Drag was completely forbidden in Franco’s time and today they are the muse for many young fashion photographers. The artwork is on display at Little Beach House Barcelona.
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