Each June, we celebrate LGBTQ+ activism in commemoration of the Stonewall Riots of 1969, when demonstrators rose up in protest of a police raid on New York City’s Stonewall Inn—a bar that served as a safe haven for the gay, lesbian, and transgender communities. Since then, cities, organizations, and companies have paid homage to those whose lives have been defined by and lost in the ongoing struggle for LGBTQ+ rights. Most often, LGBTQ+ pride is visualized in the symbol of the rainbow. While the rainbow signals shared identity, community, and allyship, lived experiences transcend symbols and slogans. This Pride Month, Saatchi Art seeks to highlight artists whose portrayal of LGBTQ+ life goes beyond the rainbow in an acknowledgment that despite increased representation, many aspects of queer experience are still rendered invisible or one-dimensional. In Beyond the Rainbow: Pride in Portraits, we showcase pioneering artists rendering the invisible visible through portraiture.

In portraits, we can explore nuanced modes of subjectivity that go beyond rigid classifications and begin to understand and identify with the lived experiences of the LGBTQ+ community. Visualizing the hidden is a recurring theme for many of these artists: Istanbul-based artist Bengisu Bayrak paints thoughtful portraits of queer people as they navigate the conservative atmosphere of Turkey’s major cities, finding themselves increasingly relegated to the home and private spaces amid laws against LGBTQ+ expression.

Photographer Damien Frost captures the specters of London nightlife through portraits of drag queens, queer club kids, and burlesque performers, all in elaborate costumes that take on an air of royal regalia and confrontation. Through photography like Damien’s and the intimate at-home portraits by Tom Atwood, we glimpse moments of encounter that speak to complex personal histories.

Through the human figure, artists like Silvio Severino also explore the objectification of bodies and their activation as agents beyond traditional, heteronormative ways of being seen. By deconstructing images of male bodies in the media to contemplate how they were meant to be seen and how they might be seen differently, Silvio exposes the pressure to mask one’s true self behind rigid gender expectations. Through reimagined collages, Silvio attests to the importance of representation through images.

Across these artworks, we see portraits of queer people and portraits by queer people that propose new ways of seeing their communities and loved ones. We hope that these portraits will inspire others to share their own stories with the aim of advancing representation and understanding.

Co-curated by Aurora Garrison, Senior Curator, and Erin Remington, Manager of Art Advisory & Curation at Saatchi Art.