black, white & gray -

I recently watched black, white and gray, a documentary that covers the years  in which Sam Wagstaff transformed himself from innovative museum curator to Robert Mapplethorpe’s lover and avid collector of early B&W photographs. I had written this response but had not posted it, so here it is........ This was a symbiotic relationship, where Mapplethorpe was helped through Wagstaff’s money and circle of influence, in becoming a great photographer. Mapplethorpe in return introduced Wagstaff to the world of drugs, gay life with S&M sex. This documentary goes through the many changes that Wagstaff has throughout his life, both public and personal. He was Yale educated and born with a silver spoon in his mouth and he transformed from a conservative and starchy individual to a regular club attendee who experimented with drugs and S&M sex. There appears to be some negativity around the recognition that Mapplethorpe received during his career, which was helped by the millions of Wagstaff. While Wagstaff appears to not be seen in the same influential light in the art & possibly gay world. What was fascinating to learn was that Wagstaff was really the one who started the interest in black & white photographs. As photograph’s had not yet been recognized for their commodity value until Wagstaff came along and started buying up B&W images form the 19th and 20th century. (Wagstaff’s collection of over 2,500 masterworks from both the nineteenth and twentieth centuries became part of the J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles.) Both men died within a short time of each other, Wagstaff in 1987 from AIDS and Mapplethorpe in 1989. Neither of these two men would have made the impact they did together, on their own. As without Wagstaff, Mapplethorpe may not have found the same art circles that helped promote and sell his work. Without Mapplethorpe, Wagstaff may not have become interested in collecting B&W photography. As said before it appears to be have been a symbiotic relationship, for which the art world has a lot to be thankful for. more info: A Portrait of Sam Wagstaff and Robert Mapplethorpe - A film by James Crump Feature Documentary Running time: 76 minutes. Written, Directed and Produced by James Crump.

Posted by Elle Anderson

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