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#DragInArt: From Duchamp to Warhol to Drag Race (& Lots of Queens in Between…)


Andy Warhol in drag by Christopher Makos

Man Ray, Rrose Sélavy (Marcel Duchamp)], 1923
J. Paul Getty Museum

Do you know where the term “drag queen” comes from? It was apparently first used to describe men appearing in women’s clothing in Polari— British slang that gay men used to communicate in secret. In folk etymology it’s an acronym;

Dressed Resembling A Girl”

From the global phenomenon of RuPaul’s Drag Race to Conchita Wurst winning the Eurovision Song Contest, you can’t deny that drag is having a mainstream moment.

In 1920, artist Marcel Duchamp’s female alter ego Rrose Sélavy became an icon when she was shot by Man Ray.

Feminist artists like Cindy Sherman, and Gillian Wearing, among many others, played with drag as a means of commentary, and Andy Warhol famously shot Candy Darling, created a series of drag queen paintings called Ladies and Gentlemen, as well as posed in drag himself for photographer Christopher Makos.

Photographer Nan Goldin shot drag queens in Boston as a teenager, and later NYC’s drag communities in the ’80s and early ’90s. In 2015, Charles Atlas was included in MoMA PS1’s “Greater New York” exhibition featuring the Lady Bunny lip syncing.

And last year Contemporary Drag premiered at the NADA art fair in New York. Gallerists Gordon and Robichaux were knee-deep in it with drag artists —from Tabboo! to Drag Race winner Sasha Velour. Gordon said,

Everyone really needed some drag right when we served it up… out of the bars and into the streets —or rather into the art fair.

Drag moves in cycles, but it’s interesting to see how quickly the mainstream is finding the alternative.“

RuPaul‘s infamous line is now proving to equally significant culturally as well as prophetic as Warhol’s ‘In the future everyone will be famous for 15 minutes‘ quote.

We’re all born naked and the rest is drag.

For more Drag in Art check out Amelia Abraham‘s A Brief History of Drag in the Art World.

Tyranny of Consciousness, featuring Lady Bunny, Venice Biennale 2017 from bob stein on Vimeo.

Jim Dine, Drag – Johnson and Mao, 1967

Warhol & Divine. (YouTube screen grab from “I Am Divine)

Warhol drag queen Polaroids

Andy Warhol, Ladies and Gentlemen

Candy Darling on her death bed by Peter Hujar, 1973

Gillian Wearing, Me as Mapplethorpe, 2009. (Based on the Robert Mapplethorpe work Self Portrait, 1988

Cindy Sherman
Untitled #353, 2000

Jimmy Paulette by Nan Goldin, 1991

Still from Charles Atlas video ft. Lady Bunny (courtesy Luhring Augustine)

RuPaul by David Yarritu

Richard Haines at Contemporary Drag, NADA, Gordon and Robichaux Gallery

Self-portrait in drag by Tabboo!

Sasha Velour by Lucas Michael

(via Artsy)

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