December 1 - 31, 2014


Visual AIDS and The Body

1989—What We Lost
Curated by Jim Hubbard

Sam Orwen, Lovers, 1982
Self Portrait, 1975, gelatin silver print.
Courtesy of the Estate of Robert Mapplethorpe

NOTE: Previous exhibitions are also available on the website.

December 1, 1989 was the first Day Without Art. Six hundred arts institutions participated. The Metropolitan Museum of Art removed Picasso’s Portrait of Gertrude Stein. The Museum of Modern Art had Leonard Bernstein compose and play a two-minute piece. According to The New York Times:

“The loosely coordinated events—including gallery closings, the temporary removal of artworks from gallery walls, memorial services, performances and educational programs about AIDS—were organized by a group of arts professionals called Visual AIDS. The nationwide observance, which was held on the World Health Organization's second AIDS Awareness Day and is to be an annual event, was called ‘to make people pay attention to the effects of AIDS on the art world and our society,’ said Thomas W. Sokolowski, a member of Visual AIDS.”

In retrospect, December 1989 seems a watershed moment, signaling, in some way, that the straight world—the world that had previously ignored the 117,508 US cases of AIDS and 89,343 deaths—now had to pay attention.

Not only did those 600 largely mainstream institutions participate in the Day Without Art, nine days after Day Without Art ACT UP and WHAM! organized the Stop the Church demonstration for which seven thousand people gathered outside of St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York to protest John Cardinal O’Connor’s homophobic and misogynistic AIDS and anti-abortion policies. About one hundred fifty people demonstrated inside the cathedral, interrupting the Mass. One former altar boy spontaneously crumbled the Host and threw it to the floor. That “sacrilegious” action served as an excuse for the expression of intense ire around the world. At the same time, the action demonstrated the strength and determination of AIDS activists and utterly changed the western world’s perception of gay people.

This Visual AIDS Web Gallery largely consists of works produced by artists who died in 1989 or shortly thereafter, or artists who were making work in 1989. Many people died of AIDS throughout the ‘80s and ‘90s but AIDS didn’t just end lives; it destroyed a burgeoning culture of public gayness and a flourishing artistic expression of unbridled sexuality.

[Links and artist informaion on their website.]

About the Curator:

Jim Hubbard has been making films since 1974. IN 2012, he completed United in Anger: A History of ACT UP, a feature length documentary on ACT UP, the AIDS activist group. Sarah Schulman and he are continuing work on the ACT UP Oral History Project, as well. One hundred and two interviews from the ACT UP Oral History Project were on view in a 14-monitor installation at the Carpenter Center for the Arts, Harvard University as part of the exhibition ACT UP New York: Activism, Art, and the AIDS Crisis, 1987–1993, October 15 – December 23, 2009. A version with 114 interviews showed at the White Columns Gallery in New York, September 8 – October 23, 2010. He, along with James Wentzy, created a 9-part cable access television series based on the Project.

Among his 19 other films are Elegy in the Streets (1989), Two Marches (1991), The Dance (1992) and Memento Mori (1995). His films have been shown at the Museum of Modern Art, the Berlin Film Festival, the London Film Festival, the San Francisco Jewish Film Festival, the New York, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Tokyo, London, Torino and many other Lesbian and Gay Film Festivals. His film Memento Mori won the Ursula for Best Short Film at the Hamburg Lesbian & Gay Film Festival in 1995.

He co-founded MIX - the New York Lesbian and Gay Experimental Film/Video Festival. Under the auspices of the Estate Project for Artists with AIDS, he created the AIDS Activist Video Collection at the New York Public Library. He curated the series Fever in the Archive: AIDS Activist Videotapes from the Royal S. Marks Collection for the Guggenheim Museum in New York. The 8-program series took place December 1-9, 2000. He also co-curated the series, Another Wave: Recent Global Queer Cinema at the Museum of Modern Art in New York, July and September 2006... Recently, he curated a series of videotapes from the collection of the New York Public Library to accompany Why We Fight!, their landmark exhibition about AIDS activism.

Every month, Visual AIDS invites guest curators, drawn from both the arts and AIDS communities, to select several works from the Frank Moore Archive Project.

Founded in 1988 by arts professionals as a response to the effects of AIDS on the arts community and as a way of organizing artists, arts institutions, and arts audiences towards direct action, Visual AIDS has evolved into an arts organization with a two-pronged mission: 1) Through the Frank Moore Archive Project, the largest slide library of work by artists living with HIV and the estates of artists who have died of AIDS, Visual AIDS historicizes the contributions of visual artists with HIV while supporting their ability to continue making art and furthering their professional careers, 2) In collaboration with museums, galleries, artists, schools, and AIDS service organizations, Visual AIDS produces exhibitions, publications, and events utilizing visual art to spread the message “AIDS IS NOT OVER.”

The Body is now the most frequently visited HIV/AIDS-related site on the Web, according to the Medical Library Association and also the most frequently visited disease-specific site on the Web, according to Hot 100. The Body contains a rich collection of information on topics ranging from HIV prevention, state-of-the-art treatment issues, humor and art. An invaluable resource, The Body is used by clinicians, patients and the general public. Part of The Body's mission is to enable artistic expression to reach the Web, and to join art with other resources needed to help the public comprehend the enormity and devastation of the AIDS pandemic and to experience its human and spiritual dimensions.

Visual AIDS 
526 W. 26th St. # 510, New York, NY 10001
Phone: 212.627.9855  Fax: 212.627.9815

Visual AIDS Gallery

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“I know my little ‘dirty drawings’ are never going to hang in the main salons of the Louvre, but it would be nice if — I would like to say ‘when,’ but I better say ‘if’ — our world learns to accept all the different ways of loving. Then maybe I could have a place in one of the smaller side rooms.” (1991)
— Tom of Finland