EXPIRED: 12/31/09 – Fritz Lohman, 87, collected art and thought it was interesting that a lot of the art he collected was produced by his gay and lesbian friends. So he and his partner of 48 years, Charles Leslie, started to support primarily gay and lesbian artists.

Forty years ago, the two waged a legal battle with the city to rezone 12 SoHo square blocks from commercial to residential. When all was said and done,  48 square blocks were rezoned into the crowded outdoor shopping mall that is the SoHo district.

This happened all while Lohman ran a successful interior-design business, which he closed in 1987. Then, in 1990, the two men established the Leslie/Lohman Gay Art Foundation, a nonprofit art gallery on Wooster Street “to provide an outlet for art work that is unambiguously gay.”

A small real estate company that the two men launched in 1969, buying up and selling nine buildings in which they retained commercial space, allowed them to invest in their other ventures. But the investments come at a price.

Lohman could have saved his boyfriend $3 million if he had only held on 13 hours longer. Since Lohman died on New Year’s Eve – and Congress failed to pass a 2009 death tax for America’s wealthiest few – Leslie will be paying in the millions.

It’s all good though. He’s still got the Leslie/Lohman gallery in Soho that he plans to keep open and business is brisk.



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