Updated: Jun 18, 2020
June is Pride month, which like everything else this year is looking a little different - so I wanted to mark this month of celebrations with a mini Art History series celebrating Pride!
Read on to learn all about 5 works of art which had Pride at their very heart and soul!
STIK, Hackney Pride Banner, 2016, London
In 2016, Hackney Council in London commissioned renowned artist and local Hackney resident STIK to create a banner for the council’s pride float in the annual Pride in London Parade. This hand-crafted banner was produced in collaboration with Flagmakers Ltd, one of the oldest flag makers in Britain.
The 2-meter-tall banner was mounted on top of a black Hackney Carriage Taxi during the 2016 Pride Parade and later went on display at Hackney Museum. The work was also reproduced as a large pull-out in the local paper for Pride goers to make into their own banner if they so wished.
STIK’s Hackney Pride Banner was later sold at Christies auction, raising over £15,000; with all money from the sale donated to support young LGBTQI+ people through Hackney’s Project Indigo.
This LGBTQ youth group and counselling service offers people who are questioning their sexual or gender identity to gather together and discuss their experiences in a supportive and open environment whilst meeting other like-minded youths.
These young people were also given the chance to curate an exhibition centered on Hackney’s rich and diverse LGBTQI+ heritage. The exhibition opened to the public at Hackney Museum during LGBT History month in 2018. Findings from the research for this exhibition were then distributed to the local schools in Hackney so children from a young age can engage with these materials.
The materials are also available to view free online with the aim of allowing thousands of people to better understand Hackney’s LGBTQI+ legacy, empowering people both locally and globally.
All this good from one banner.
The Legacy Project, Boystown, Chicago, 2012
This is 1 of 20 rainbow pylons that form part of the Legacy Project Walk in Boystown, Chicago.
The 25-foot-tall pylons were designed and installed by Chicago based architecture firm DeStefano+Partners as part of a series of streetscape projects & were officially installed in 1998.
By installing these pylons, it was the first time a city government officially recognised an LGBTQ+ community making Boystown the first officially recognised gay village in the USA!
Each pylon was designed in the style of a stepped Art Deco skyscraper and possess the pride rainbow rings. Each pylon also holds a beacon of light at the top. When lit, the beacon is seen as a symbol of hope, acting as a literal light in the darkness against prejudice and hate.
In 2012, the Legacy Project selected the unique rainbow pylons as the location for the first outdoor museum recognising the significant world achievements and contributions of LGBTQ people. On their website they state:
‘The Legacy Project illuminates and affirms the lives of LGBTQ people to honour their experiences and accomplishments; to collect and preserve their contributions to world history and culture; to educate and inspire the public and young people; and to assure an inclusive and equitable future.’
As of 2019, the pylons have been enhanced with 40 illuminated bronze plaques dedicated to historically important figures, including Frida Kahlo, Jane Addams, Sally Ride and Alan Turing.
The Legacy Walk was declared a historic landmark in May 2019 by the city of Chicago.
It was announced in early 2020 that the Legacy Walk would begin to rotate its plaques in order to add more LGBTQ+ people from history and modern day who hold significant world achievements.
You can follow the legacy project on Instagram here: @lgbt_legacy
Gilbert Baker, Rainbow Flag, 1978
Although a little different to the one you see today, this is the original rainbow flag designed by American artist and gay right activist Gilbert Backer. This designed had eight colours each with individual meaning:
Hot Pink – Sexuality
Red – Life
Orange - Healing
Yellow - Sunlight
Green - Nature
Turquoise – Magic/Art
Blue – Harmony
Purple - Spirt
This version of the flag was first flown at the Gay Freedom Day Parade in San Francisco on June 25th 1978!
However, in order to make the flag easier to mass produce, pink and turquoise were dropped - taking the number of stripes to 6, meaning the new configuration resembled that of an actual rainbow, the main inspiration for the design, as well as the stripes of the American flag.
On the flag Baker said:
“We needed something to express our joy, our beauty, our power. And the rainbow did that.”
In 1994, Baker created a huge version of the original flag, 1 mile long, as a way of making the 25th anniversary of the Stonewall Riots.
In 2003, he made an even bigger version at 1.25 miles long to mark 25 years since he first unveiled the design.
Each version contained the original 8 colours
2015 saw the flag enter the permanent collection at the Museum of Modern Art, New York; taking its rightful place amongst some of the greatest art works ever created.
Baker died in 2017 leaving behind an iconic emblem which will stand the test of time.
Gay Liberation Monument, New York, 1992
This is the Gay Liberation Monument created by American artist George Segal. The work was unveiled at Christopher Park, New York City in 1992 & is part of the Stonewall National Monument.
The work was commissioned in 1979 by the Mildred Andrews Fund to commemorate the Stonewall Riots which had happened 10 years previous. These riots and marches saw hundreds of members of the LGBT community in New York rise up in reaction to a police raid on the Stonewall Inn in which 13 people were forcefully arrested. The Stonewall Inn was a gay bar and violent police raids were a common occurrence.
It is these riots and marches which happened in the wake of Stonewall throughout the summer of 1969 which are often attributed to the starting point to the gay rights movement in America.
The work is 4 bronze figures, each in a relaxed pose. The white lacquer in which the figures are painted are a signature feature of Segal’s work.
The simplicity of the work in its detail and the relax nature of the poses symbolises the simplicity of what the LGBT community were asking for – acceptance and equal rights, as they, like everyone, are human. The work is often decorated with clothing, particularly during Pride, which is why I chose the image above. To me, dressing a work shows a love for the piece by a community and that they have claimed it as their own. What do you think?
Segal was not the first artist approached for the commission, but he accepted the brief which stated the sculpture must be installed on public land and that it "had to be loving and caring, and show the affection that is the hallmark of gay people…And it had to have equal representation of men and women."
It was completed in 1980 and was the first piece of public art dedicated to LGBT rights.
However, although completed in 1980 it took 12 YEARS to finally get the work installed on public land in New York due to public opposition, lack of installation funding and planned renovation of the park is was due to be placed. It lived at the University of Wisconsin at Madison before being installed in 1992.
Keith Haring, Heritage of Pride Logo, New York
Iconic pop and graffiti artist Keith Haring created this logo for Heritage of Pride in the 1980s. The work shows Two of the figures' heads as male gender symbols linked together, while the other two figures heads' are female gender symbols linked together.
Heritage of Pride is the organisation that hosts New York City’s Pride events in commemoration of the Stonewall Riots of 1969 every year.
Haring used his art to discuss many social and political issues effecting the people of New York in the 1970s and 1980s. His style is arguably a universal language and his work stands as one of the most recognisable in the world.
Haring first received public attention with his graffiti art in subways where he created white chalk drawings on a black, unused advertisement backboard in the stations. Catching the eye of gallery directors and the public, Haring was catapulted into international recognition and acclaim within a few short years of starting his career.
Haring was openly gay and used his platform and art to advocate for safe sex and raise awareness of the crippling HIV crisis in the 1980s. These are some of his most iconic works.
Haring died on February 16, 1990, of AIDS related complications but before his death established the Keith Haring Foundation which provides funding and imagery to AIDS organisations and children's programs.
The foundation's stated goal is to keep Haring’s wishes and expand his legacy by providing grants and funding to non-profit organisations that educate disadvantaged youths and inform the public about HIV and AIDS. It also shares his work and contains information about his life. The foundation also supports arts and educational institutions by funding exhibitions, educational programs, and publications.
JM June 2020
I’ve learnt a lot researching this mini-series and I hope you find it informative and inspiring. If you have any questions or want to get in touch directly email me on: josarthistory.com