Stonewall at 50: A Roundtable with Vaginal Davis, Michela Griffo, and Jonathan Weinberg
ArtNews, March 14-19, 2019/Spring 2019
By Maximiliano Durón
In the early hours of June 28, 1969, the police raided the Stonewall Inn, a gay bar in New York’s Greenwich Village. Had it been any other night in what had become a monthly routine, the police would have confiscated the booze, collected their payoff from the Mafia men who ran the establishment, and Stonewall would have gone back to business as usual. But something about that sweltering night was different. Fed up with the constant harassment, the patrons rioted. While there had been queer uprisings before, what set the Stonewall Rebellion apart—and what turned it from a flashpoint into a kind of shorthand for queer liberation—are the groups and actions it has incited in the decades since.
In 2016 President Barack Obama designated the Stonewall Inn and the surrounding area, including nearby Christopher Park, a national monument. What has been less commemorated is the role that Stonewall played not just in the lives of queer artists but in the art world at large. Last fall, the New Museum in New York staged an exhibition in which Chris E. Vargas invited fellow artists to reimagine monuments to Stonewall. This spring, a more comprehensive examination of the subject arrives in the form of “Art After Stonewall: 1969–1989,” an exhibition opening in April at two venues in New York—the Leslie-Lohman Museum of Gay and Lesbian Art and Grey Art Gallery at NYU—before traveling to the Frost Art Museum in Miami and Ohio’s Columbus Museum of Art, which organized the exhibition.
In advance of the show, ARTnews spoke with Jonathan Weinberg (who curated the exhibition with Tyler Cann and Drew Sawyer) and two artists included in the show: Vaginal Davis, who was born in the 1960s and currently lives in Berlin, and Michela Griffo, a New Yorker who was 20 when Stonewall rose up.