Self-Portrait, 1980, Robert Mapplethorpe. Photograph: Courtesy Getty/LACMA
It's been more than 25 years since Senator Jesse Helms and others denounced the controversial photographs of Robert Mapplethorpe due to their frank depictions of nudity, sexuality and fetishism, igniting a culture war, and the photographer continues to be a touchstone and his work highly collectible. Now it looks like next spring will be a major turning point in Mapplethorpe's artistic reputation.
Deputing April 2016 on HBO, Mapplethorpe: Look at the Pictures is a the first feature-length documentary about the artist since his death and is from acclaimed filmmakers Fenton Bailey and Randy Barbato (Inside Deep Throat; HBO’s Wishful Drinking, and The Eyes of Tammy Faye), who are best known as the World of Wonder impresarios, and their breakout hit, RuPaul's Drag Race.
This coincides with a joint retrospective organized by the Getty Museum and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, titled Robert Mapplethorpe: The Perfect Medium, that both open in March 2016. The concurrent exhibitions about the late, provocative portrait photographer will delve into Mapplethorpe's disciplined studio practice, figure studies, and legacy, as well as focus on his methods, sources, and creative processes.
More than 300 mostly black-and-white portraits, still lifes and nudes will be on display between the two museums. They jointly acquired most of the art and archives from the Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation in 2011, including private correspondence, books, and ephemera from the late artist's estate. In addition, LACMA will be featuring 30 complementary works from other artists as part of Physical: Sex and the Body in the 1980s. A new book, Thrill of the Chase: The Wagstaff Collection of Photographs at the J. Paul Getty Museum, presents photographs from the extraordinary collection of Sam Wagstaff, Mapplethorpe's mentor and lover, who was also the subject a biography last year.
The exhibition will then travel to three international venues—including the Musee des Beaux-Arts de Montreal and the Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney—after its L.A. run.