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Downtown 80’s Queer Virtual Art Crawl

January 24 @ 2:00 pm - 3:15 pm


The Downtown art scene of New York in the 1980s has become legendary, in large part shaped by a younger generation of artists, many with queer identities. The East Village, NoHo, SoHo, and the Lower East Side became a haven for a diverse range of interdisciplinary artistic expressions, including the visual arts, performance, music, and poetry. Alongside a burgeoning nightlife, many new galleries, clubs, and alternative venues emerged to both cultivate these collaborations and display the radical art of the time. The gritty and urban environment of Downtown New York provided the perfect backdrop for artists to hit the streets with accessible, irreverent, and do-it-yourself art, created in a direct challenge to the elitist and exclusive art scene further uptown. Queer artists led the way throughout the decade—many of whom turned to activism when the AIDS epidemic hit, creating a new breed of the Artist Activist. This virtual Zoom tour highlights some of the most famous names to come out of the scene, and showcases their radical, queer art and lives. As a virtual art crawl, this tour maps their careers onto significant places in the neighborhood, many of which still exist today.

George Benson, host of two virtual MoMA tours and a tour of Queer British Art, will bring three Downtown artists to life, and Keith Haring expert Amy Raffel will offer an in-depth look at the art and life of Keith Haring, the most famous person to come out of this scene.

Highlights of the tour will include:

  • Peter Hujar, a bohemian artist and stalwart of the East Village art scene who captured in photography some of the leading counter-culture figures of the day
  • David Wojnarowicz, whose diatribes and aggressive political stance turned him into the figurehead of the backlash against political inaction on AIDS
  • Robert Mapplethorpe, the world-famous photographer whose controversial images incurred the wrath of the US Government
  • PLUS an in-depth look at the queer work of Keith Haring, covering work created as he rose to stardom and his pivotal AIDS activism at the end of the eighties.

Join us to explore how Downtown New York became the catalyst to new artistic movements that changed the way artists work to this very day.


Can’t make the live event? Buy a ticket for the recording and watch the event in your own time!

About the Author
Shoshanna M.

Shoshanna M.

Shoshanna McCollum is editor of Fire Island News. Author of two books, and award-winning journalist for multiple Fire Island and South Shore Long Island publications since 2000, she resides year round on Fire Island with her husband and many cats.