Inside the World’s Largest Collection of Penis-Based Art

Charlie Leslie has turned his Manhattan apartment into a museum full of dicks.


Photos courtesy of Rick Day and Steve Benisty

This article originally appeared on VICE Germany.

Now well into his 80s, Charlie Leslie has spent a good part of his life to 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 Manhattan loft, the collection boasts hundreds of depictions of naked male bodies including their, well, "pieces." Whether in the form of straws, bookends, wall mounts, or table pieces, penises are everywhere. Some of them even carry famous 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 who 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.

The Art of Looking will be published by Bruno Gmünder this month.

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