New Publication Inspired by Installation Series Pairing Old Masters with Contemporary Works

Queer Perspectives Explored through Essays on Works by New York Artists Jenna Gribbon, Doron Langberg, Toyin Ojih Odutola, and Salman Toor

The Frick Collection’s new publication, Living Histories: Queer Views and Old Masters, explores the pairing of four commissions by New York–based artists Jenna Gribbon, Doron Langberg, Toyin Ojih Odutola, and Salman Toor with iconic works in the museum’s holdings by Vermeer, Rembrandt, and Holbein. The new works each address issues of gender and Queer identity and were presented at various points between September 2021 and September 2022 in conversation with their respective Old Master paintings at Frick Madison, the Frick’s temporary home at the Breuer building.

During the installation series, Gribbon’s What Am I Doing Here? I Should Ask You the Same (2022) was displayed with Holbein’s Thomas Cromwell; Langberg’s Lover (2021) was shown in dialogue with Holbein’s Sir Thomas More; Ojih Odutola’s The Listener (2021) was presented alongside Rembrandt’s Self-Portrait and Nicolaes Ruts; and Toor’s Museum Boys (2021) joined Vermeer’s Officer and Laughing Girl and Mistress and Maid.

Through essays and interviews with the artists, this new book explores the significance of this installation series and the responses it engendered. Contributors include:

  • Contemporary art curators Jessica Bell Brown (Curator and Department Head for Contemporary Art, Baltimore Museum of Art), Christopher Y. Lew (former curator, Whitney Museum of American Art), and Legacy Russell (Executive Director and Chief Curator, The Kitchen) 
  • Collectors and contemporary art supporters Jonathan Anderson (JW Anderson Collections Fund) and Russell Tovey (actor and Talk Art podcast host) 
  • Writers Jason Reynolds (author of Look Both Ways: A Tale Told in Ten Blocks) and Hanya Yanagihara (T Magazine editor-in-chief and author of A Little Life

Exhibition organizers Aimee Ng, Curator, and Xavier F. Salomon, Deputy Director and Peter Jay Sharp Chief Curator, both of the Frick, along with Stephen Truax, independent curator, each contributed essays on Queer figurative painting in the context of The Frick Collection.

Salomon remarks in his essay, “How can The Frick Collection—with all its art created in countries and at times when homosexuality was a punishable offense—represent today’s Queer community? Many groups of artists, sitters, and patrons are not represented at the Frick. In the future, the institution may be able to fill some of these gaps; some can only be resolved through exhibitions and programming like the Living Histories series.”

Ng adds, “These juxtapositions pay tribute to twenty-first-century perspectives and to the significance of historical art to artists today. Every viewer of a historical work of art brings something new to the encounter. This is the charge of public museums today: to connect art with people, to make centuries-old bits of history come alive for fresh eyes.”

Truax writes, “It is precisely here, at the Frick, embedded in a broad range of Western art, that these young artists are at their most powerful. Never has recent figurative painting looked so fresh as these four do adjacent to their historical predecessors.”

Living Histories: Queer Views and Old Masters is published on September 19, 2023, by The Frick Collection in association with D Giles Limited. The 112-page hardcover volume includes 45 color illustrations ($34.95, member price $27.96). The publication can be ordered online at, by emailing, or by calling 212.547.6849. It will also be available for purchase at the Museum Shop at Frick Madison.


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