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Julie Tolentino, Shatter + Center, 2014.
Julie Tolentino, Shatter + Center, 2014.

Julie Tolentino Wins 2020 Queer|Art|Prize for Sustained Achievement

Performance artist, dancer, activist, and radical caregiver Julie Tolentino—founder of the storied Clit Club, a queer, pro-sex nightclub that floated throughout various Manhattan locations from 1990 to 2002—has won Queer|Art’s annual $10,000 award for Sustained Achievement.

“As we consider the present and future of performance during Covid, Julie Tolentino’s work signals hope and possibility for a future of live art anchored in care, community, resilience, and bold visionary thinking that inspires us to imagine new ways of being present in the world together,” read a statement by Queer|Art, the New York–based organization dedicated to supporting LGBTQ+ artists in the United States. Past Sustained Achievement awardees include Catherine Opie, Vaginal Davis, and Joan Jett Blakk.

Tolentino, whose ’90s New York club spaces also included Tattooed Love Child and Dagger, conceived Clit Club as a queer, collaboratively run sex-positive club and performance space that was intergenerational, multiracial, and mixed class. “Clit Club was more than a party,” wrote Artforum editor-in-chief David Velasco in his foreword to a book-length interview between Tolentino and Kia LaBeija published by Visual Aids in 2019. “Or, like the best parties, it was an ethos, a destination that lived inside its inhabitants—a roving home for dykes, sex workers, and unflappable misfits. A legendary safe house along the path of a malevolent journey.”

Tolentino was a founding member of ACT UP New York’s House of Color Video Collective and, with Cynthia Madansky, created the Safer Sex Handbook for Women for Lesbian Aids Project/GMHC. In more recent years, she has worked to archive the performances of other artists, and is currently a 2018 MFA candidate and Dean’s Distinguished Fellow of Experimental Dance at the University of California, Riverside. Her multimedia art practice encompasses collaborations with Ron Athey, Candidate, Robert Crouch, Stosh Fila, Gran Fury, Diamanda Galás, Gerard & Kelly, Stanley Love, Lovett/Codagnone, Catherine Opie, David Rousseve, Madonna, Mark So, and Meg Stuart. Her installations and performances have been exhibited throughout the world, including at the New Museum, The Kitchen, and Danspace Projects in New York.  

The winner in Queer|Art’s category of Recent Work—which also comes with a $10,000 prize—has not yet been announced. Finalists for the HBO-sponsored award include Randy Ford for her show Queen Street (2019); Yulan Grant for the performance BUSS DEMON CHOAT, 2019; Cyrée Jarelle Johnson for the poetry collection SLINGSHOT (2019); and Brandon Taylor for his novel Real Life, 2020. The winner will be announced on October 22, during a ceremony and party held on Zoom that will honor all nominees. 

The Queer|Art|Prize, now in its fourth year, is decided by a revolving panel of judges. This year’s committee includes Kya Azeen, jayy dodd, Jeannine Tang, Mary Edwards, Shala Miller, and Joshua Sanchez.