This article originally appeared on VICE Germany
Now well into his eighties, Charlie Leslie has spent a good part of his life building what must be the world's largest collection of homoerotic art. Together with his late partner, Fritz Lohman, they founded the Leslie + Lohman Museum of Gay and Lesbian Art back in 1987, as a reaction to the HIV/AIDS crisis of the time.
Housed inside a SoHo loft, the collection boasts hundreds of depictions of naked male bodies including their, well, "pieces". Whether in the form of straws, book-ends, wall mounts or table pieces — penises are everywhere. Some of them even carry hard-hitting signatures like Mapplethorpe, Warhol or Cocteau. The pièce de résistance however is the massive nude portrait of Charlie and Fritz hanging above their sofa.
The story behind the collection is as fascinating as it is depressing. A good chunk of the museum consists of work retrieved from the families of artists that died from AIDS. What they threw out as shameful trash, Leslie saw as pieces of history worth rescuing.
The man's life story is so interesting that author Kevin Clarke decided it deserved to be made into a book. In The Art of Looking, Clarke recalls anecdotes from Charles Leslie's life, including the story of how he started the modern SoHo scene and became a collector.