Monday, January 24, 2005

Mapplethorpe at the Moscow House of Photography

Just when you think the Wicked Witch is dead, here she comes again.

The Guggenheim Foundation is sponsoring Robert Mapplethorpe and the Classical Tradition: Photographs and Mannerist Prints at the Moscow House of Photography. It's all over The Moscow Times, "Afisha" magazine, and other media. The usual pathetic attempt to show his work in tandem with the great masters to claim he is a great artist, something other than a society photographer, fashion magazine hack, and celebrity pornographer. I thought we left Mapplethorpe behind in the 1990s...

Looking at the photos in this latest Mapplethorpe show, I could not help but think of the tortured suspects in American and English prisons seen in newspaper photos--the same men in dog collars, men tied up, men being sexually abused in strange positions. Perhaps there is some link, somewhere, between the intellectual climate that creates a market for Mapplethorpe (he died a multi-millionaire) and one that permits torture of helpless prisoners.

A better title for the Moscow House of Photography exhibit might be: "Robert Mapplethorpe: Inspiration for Abu Gharib?"