Friday, September 29, 2023

The Getty and LACMA Team Up for Mapplethorpe Exhibit

More than twenty-five years after the landmark trial over exhibiting Robert Mapplethorpe’s photographs, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) and the J. Paul Getty Museum are opening their joint retrospective, “Robert Mapplethorpe: The Perfect Medium.” The exhibition, devoted to the late US photographer, will show photographs from Mapplethorpe’s X Portfolio.

The X Portfolio was part of the 1990 trial that sparked a debate over obscenity and government funding for the arts. On trial facing obscenity charges were the Contemporary Arts Center (CAC) in Cincinnati and its then director, Dennis Barrie. The defense focused on convincing the jury that Mapplethorpe’s work was art, and the prosecution countered that it was pornography. The jury deliberated for less than an hour before acquitting the CAC and Barrie.

Getty curator Paul Martineau explained that in the exhibition he wanted to both humanize Mapplethorpe, making him more approachable to the average person, while not avoiding any challenging art.

Richard Meyer, an art history professor at Stanford University, explained that, “What Mapplethorpe understood is that you’ll never get rid of censorship altogether, but when censorship of art happens, it’s used as an opportunity or forum for public dialogue about why art matters in a democratic culture.”


“Robert Mapplethorpe: The Perfect Medium” runs at the J. Paul Getty Museum and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art from March 15 to July 31.


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