“Hide/Seek,” Crucified Exhibit of Queer Art History, is Back!

Oh hello, do you remember that art exhibit Hide/Seek: Difference and Desire in American Portraiture? The one at the National Gallery that caused John Boehner to threaten to defund the institution because the show included a controversial statement about Jesus? (And by “controversial,” I mean one video installation had a 5 second clip of ants running across a crucifix.) It made me want to lock the entire GOP into a room so I could scream about the Bill of Rights at them at the top of my lungs. Oh, and the ironic cherry on top is that Hide/Seek is an exhibit about the systematic marginalization of gay identities in American history. How meta it all turned out to be!

Well, if you don’t remember that whole hullabaloo a few months ago, those were the basic details. Maybe now you’re frustrated all over again and sad you can’t see all that awesome queerio history. But it’s ok because Hide/Seek is coming back, albeit not to the National Gallery. The Brooklyn Museum has been so awesome as to reconstitute the show in New York City. It will open at the museum tomorrow, Nov. 18, and will run until Feb. 12. Then it heads to Tacoma, where it will be at the Tacoma Art Museum from March 17, 2012, to June 10, 2012.

I suggest you go see it if you can! It’s now a piece of the very history it documents. It’s got some good stuff, too, from Annie Liebovitz to the gay couple Jasper Johns and Robert Rauschenberg. As the New York History blog describes it:

Hide/Seek includes works in a wide range of media created over the course of one hundred years that reflect a variety of sexual identities and the stories of several generations. The exhibition also highlights the influence of gay and lesbian artists who often developed new visual strategies to code and disguise their subjects’ sexual identities, as well as their own. Hide/Seek considers such themes as the role of sexual difference in depicting modern Americans, how artists have explored the definition of sexuality and gender, how major themes in modern art–especially abstraction–were influenced by marginalization, and how art has reflected society’s changing attitudes.

How can you resist that?

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Sarah lives in Chicago with her partner and her big white Great Dane. She is a lawyer by day and a beer brewer/bread baker/knitter by night. She & her partner are currently learning how to grow their own food, and eventually they hope to move to a small farm outside the city. In 2009-2010, before jetting off to law school, Sarah was Autostraddle's Managing Editor.

Sarah has written 127 articles for us.


  1. You guys! Seriously go see it! I saw it at the National Gallery and it was so amazing and super educational! I learned so much gay history and learned about so many important cultural figures being queer that I didn’t know about! Also, it’s cool art. Best exhibit.

  2. I want to see this! I wish I didn’t live on the other side of the world. What I have a problem with is the NYTimes review also commenting:
    “And the material that is included often seems tame and mild-mannered when stronger stuff is available. The American modernist Charles Demuth (1883-1935) made vibrant watercolors of sailors dancing together, one of which is represented here, but he also portrayed sailors engaged in more explicitly erotic activities.”
    I’m unhappy with the assumption that queer art has to be/should be explicit (or rather, that the more explicit art would somehow be more real or representative or revealing of queer identity).

    • I dunno, after reading the whole review, I think the author is just wondering why a show that’s about sexuality is afraid of showing Mapplethorpe’s more controversial nudes. I think the point isn’t that queer art must be sexual. It’s more the fact that this show is trying to reveal hidden themes and to show the ways queerness has been repressed or hidden by our society in the past. So it’s a little disappointing if the curators chose “tamer” pieces to make it more palatable.

      Also the end of the review acknowledges that Hide/Seek is the first show of its kind, so maybe they made some milder choices to reach a bigger audience. Who knows.

  3. This is an absolutely stunning, thorough and beautiful exhibition!! I saw this in DC at the National Portrait Gallery. I cannot put into words how worth it this is. GO!

  4. The original exhibit was at the National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution (not the National Gallery). I’m the co-curator. . .

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