The Leslie-Lohman Gallery, originally known as “The Basement,” was opened in 1987 by partners Charles Leslie (b. 1933) and J. Fredric “Fritz” Lohman (1922-2009), who lived in a neighboring loft building at 131 Prince Street. The gallery, located in the basement space at 127B Prince Street, was the predecessor of today’s Leslie-Lohman Museum of Gay and Lesbian Art.
Recognizing a need for celebrating gay-themed artwork at a time when this was considered controversial, Leslie and Lohman began exhibiting works at their SoHo loft in 1969. They eventually opened a gallery on Broome Street that operated until 1981. During the 1980s, with the AIDS epidemic leading to the death of many artists and collectors, Leslie and Lohman realized that many important works of art were being destroyed by families, either because they did not know what to do with this type of art or they did not want to acknowledge the sexuality of their relatives. Deciding that these works needed to be preserved, Leslie and Lohman created the Leslie-Lohman Gay Art Foundation in 1987, a non-profit organization. Its first official gallery was located in a small space at 127B Prince Street.
Holding numerous exhibitions of gay and lesbian artists, the Leslie-Lohman Gallery on Prince Street remained the organization’s main location until 2006, when the gallery was moved to a new space at 26 Wooster Street. This remains the current location of the Leslie-Lohman Museum of Gay and Lesbian Art, which became an accredited museum in 2016. The Leslie-Lohman is still the only dedicated art museum in the world to exhibit and preserve LGBT-themed artwork.
In 2012, the 127B Prince Street location reopened as the Project Space, under the curatorial direction of Leslie. It serves as a functional performance and exhibition space and supports living artists with pop-up weekend shows. Its active schedule of exhibitions is part of the museum’s overall programming.