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Andy Warhol
Andy Warhol Foundation

Andy Warhol’s portraits of trans women to go on display for the first time

The paintings capture the underground queer scene of 1970s New York

A series of portraits of drag queens and trans women by Andy Warhol is to go on display for the first time next year at London’s Tate Modern.

The display of 25 paintings of black and Latinx drag queens and trans women was a coup, curators said in a press release yesterday, as many of the lesser-known works are set to make their public debut. The portraits will take up an entire room in the London gallery’s first Warhol show in almost 20 years.

Italian art dealer Luciano Anselmino originally commissioned the portraits in 1974 following the death of trans actor Candy Darling, who starred in Warhol’s film Flesh just a few years earlier. Warhol and his friend Bob Colacello recruited patrons of New York City’s Gilded Grape – a spot frequented by the city’s trans black and Latinx communities – to sit for the series, resulting in 250 or so colourful potraits that shone a light on the 70s queer scene. 

One of the figures featured in the series, called ‘Ladies and Gentleman’, is Stonewall pioneer Marsha P. Johnson, who played a key role in the 1969 uprising against homophobic police raids, helping to spark the modern gay rights movement.

“It is one of Warhol’s biggest series of works but probably the least known,” said Fiontán Moran, co-curator of the show. Tate director Gregor Muir, who curated the show alongside Moran, said: “I had heard there might be these paintings in existence and I met the people who own them now and I went to visit them and it was quite the most remarkable thing”.

He added: “They were mostly in storage and it was just very beautiful and exciting to pull out these paintings and handle them and start to look through each and every work.”

You can now book tickets for the major exhibition, which runs from March 12 to September 6 next year.