A Curator’s Comprehensive Guide to the Queer Art Canon

Gemma Rolls-Bentley has compiled works by Keith Haring, Tom of Finland, Nina Chanel Abney, and many more in her book, Queer Art.

Clifford Prince King, ‘Safe Space,’ 2020.
Clifford Prince King, ‘Safe Space,’ 2020. Courtesy of Stars Gallery and Gordon Robichaux Gallery. Copyright © Clifford Prince King

The London-based curator Gemma Rolls-Bentley has selected artworks for the Leslie-Lohman Museum of Art in New York City, the Tom of Finland Art & Culture Festival in England, and curated the Brighton Beacon Collection, the largest permanent display of queer art in the U.K. But Rolls-Bentley’s latest project is likely her most expansive—and personal one—yet. Her new book, Queer Art: From Canvas to Club and the Spaces Between, features over 230 pages of photographs, paintings, digital art, and installations that exemplify and encapsulate queer life, through the eyes of queer folks. “My book investigates the role of queer art today and acknowledges the history-defining impact of our communities in the cultural landscape,” Rolls-Bentley, who has been in the industry for over two decades, said in a statement. The collection includes works by pioneers like Keith Haring, Andy Warhol, Robert Mapplethorpe, and Tom of Finland; there are also selected pieces by newer artists paving the way for future generations, like Christina Quarles, Nina Chanel Abney, and Kehinde Wiley. Below, browse through a selection of works that are queer art canon, from Queer Art, out now via Quarto Books.

© Lyle Ashton Harris

Lyle Ashton Harris, Constructs #10-13, 1989.

© Jess T. Dugan

Jess T. Dugan, SueZie, 51, and Cheryl, 55, Valrico, FL, from ‘To Survive on This Shore: Photographs and Interviews with Transgender and Gender Nonconforming Older Adults,’ 2015.

© Nina Chanel Abney. Photo courtesy of Pace Prints

Nina Chanel Abney, Day Party, Gay Party, 2022.

© Lin Zhipeng (aka No.223)

LinZhipeng (aka No.223), Smoking 3some, 2018.

© Jacolby Satterwhite/Courtesy of the artist and Mitchell-Innes & Nash, New York

Jacolby Satterwhite, Reifying Desire 5, 2013.

© Eve Fowler

Eve Fowler, Untitled from the series ‘Hustlers’, 1996.

Copyright Jeffrey Gibson. Courtesy the artist, Stephen Friedman Gallery, Sikkema Jenkins & Co. and Roberts Projects. Photography by Jason Wyche.

Jeffrey Gibson, THAT’S THE WAY LOVE GOES, 2021.

© Charmaine Poh

Charmaine Poh, Jean and Xener from the series ‘How They Love,’ 2018.

© Ghada Khunji

Ghada Khunji, Maria, Myself and I from the series ʻThe Dark Ages,’ 2016.

Photo by Janice Wilde

“Lois Weaver and others from the infamous WOW Cafe Theater march down Fifth Avenue with The Lesbian Herstory Archives in the 1985 New York Gay Pride March.”

Courtesy of Christina Quarles, Pilar Corrias London, and Hauser & Wirth

Christina Quarles, Try n’ Pull tha Rains in on Me, 2022.

© TM Davy

TM Davy, Hari Sea, 2021.