Celebrating Pride Month 2021 in the Auction Industry

Liz Catalano
Published on
Demonstrators near Hungary’s parliament building in Budapest in June of 2021. Image from Gergeley Besenyei/AFP via Getty Images.
Demonstrators near Hungary’s parliament building in Budapest in June of 2021. Image from Gergeley Besenyei/AFP via Getty Images.

During the month of June, LGBTQ+ individuals and allies from around the world gather to celebrate and advocate for equal rights. The timing of Pride Month recognizes a turning point in LGBTQ+ history. In June of 1969, a police raid of New York City’s Stonewall Inn prompted sweeping protests and resistance. The event boosted a growing Gay Liberation Movement in the United States. Since then, the LGBTQ+ equal rights movement has advanced around the world. 

Pride Month activities now celebrate the history and contributions of LGBTQ+ individuals, as well as the progress achieved over the last several decades. However, Pride Month also provides opportunities to call out ongoing injustices. These include physical violence against LGBTQ+ persons, legislation that restricts equal rights, and discrimination in healthcare.

This year, artists and auction houses will offer events to both honor and support the LGBTQ+ community. Auction Daily surveys the highlights this Pride Month.

Hein Koh, Claw My Way Out, 2016. Image from Artsy.
Hein Koh, Claw My Way Out, 2016. Image from Artsy.

Past Pride Month Events

Artsy opened Pride Month with a benefit auction curated by Brooke Wise. Titled Sexology 101, the sale benefitted the Tom of Finland Foundation. Touko Valio Laaksonen worked under the pseudonym ‘Tom of Finland’ while creating drawings of gay men and nudes. The artist and his partner, Durk Dehner, created the Foundation to combat censorship and support the work of LGBTQ+ creators. The recent Artsy sale presented 21 lots from 18 artists, including Chloe Wise, Hein Koh, Grant Levy-Lucero, and others.

Bonhams offered an auction in mid-June that specifically explored the male form throughout art history. Anastasia Orfanidou, Bonhams’ Greek Art Specialist, and Matthew Haley, Bonhams’ Head of Books and Manuscripts, co-curated the sale for Pride Month. The catalog intentionally pushed the boundaries. “This exciting new concept challenges a market that has traditionally been centered around the western concept of the male gaze,” Haley said before the auction. “It will explore how women look at men and how men look at other men.”

Patrick Hennessy, Atlas Beach, 1979. Image from Bonhams.
Patrick Hennessy, Atlas Beach, 1979. Image from Bonhams.

The auction brought in a total of GBP 615,438 (USD 857,470). Ancient Roman sculptures led the lots alongside works by LGBTQ+ artists, such as Duncan Grant, Tom of Finland, Keith Vaughan, Horst P. Horst, and Patrick Hennessy. 

Elsewhere in the art world, artists offered auctions to benefit LGBTQ+ causes. Language-based artist Jonathan Rosen recently partnered with Treum to drop a series of NFTs. Rosen displayed the works on Nasdaq’s tower in Times Square before sponsoring a chance-based lottery. He donated part of the proceeds to Broadway Cares, a nonprofit that raises funds for HIV/AIDS-related causes.

Catherine Opie, Richard and Skeeter, 1994. Image from Artnet.
Catherine Opie, Richard and Skeeter, 1994. Image from Artnet.

Current/ Upcoming Pride Month Events

Artnet will again offer a Queer Legacy sale during Pride Month. This year’s auction runs through July 1st, 2021. The event will benefit GLSEN, an organization that supports and advocates for LGBTQ+ youth in schools. Curated by former Director of the Andy Warhol Museum Eric Shiner, the catalog presents both historical and contemporary works by LGBTQ+ artists. Notable lots include two oil paintings by German-American illustrator Joseph Christian Leyendecker, a 1994 piece by Hugh Auchincloss Steers, and several photographs by David LaChapelle. The auction also offers work by Mickalene Thomas, Catherine Opie, and Yasumasa Morimura.

Christie’s recently announced plans to auction five NFTs by 18-year-old trans artist FEWOCiOUS. The artist started painting at 13 years old. He then documented his coming-of-age and experiences with gender identity over a five-year period. Matching physical paintings accompany the digital artworks, each representing a year of FEWOCiOUS’ life. Their titles span from Year 1, Age 14 – It Hurts To Hide to Year 5, Age 18 – I Taught Myself How To Fly.

FEWOCiOUS, still from Year 5, Age 18 - I Taught Myself How To Fly, 2021.
FEWOCiOUS, still from Year 5, Age 18 – I Taught Myself How To Fly, 2021.

While this is his first collaboration with a traditional auction house, FEWOCiOUS is no stranger to NFTs. He has earned more than USD 18 million through NFT sales since his first drop last year. The upcoming Christie’s auction will run from June 23rd through June 30th, 2021. 

Later this summer, Swann Galleries will host its third annual LGBTQ+ auction. Last year’s event offered a selection of art, documents, and ephemera associated with LGBTQ+ history and culture. The upcoming sale will build upon the success of previous specialized events at Swann Galleries. It will begin on August 19th, 2021.

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James Ardis
James Ardis
Senior Writer and Editor

James Ardis is a writer, editor, and content strategist focused on the auction industry. His company, James Ardis Writing, has partnered with auction houses, galleries, and many clients outside the art world.

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