Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Black and White

Moved by Patti Smith's JUST KIDS, I was eager to find more details about her life and those she encountered.  Years ago such in depth research would have required a trip to the library, and fingers rifling through card catalogs.  But today such a quest was promptly rewarded.   Yes, I'm still  dumbfounded by the Internet and the wealth of information and images readily available!  During his lifetime Mapplethorpe had two long term lovers, Patti and Sam Wagstaff, a wealthy, handsome curator and art collector.  I stumbled upon a 2007 documentary, BLACK, WHITE + GRAY, primarily about Wagstaff which was available for immediate streaming on Netflix.  The characters I had been reading about came to life on my laptop and I was surprised to learn how much Wagstaff's life had impacted mine.  In the early '70s, he was one of the first private collectors of photographs and had a crucial role in elevating this medium to an art form.  Mapplethorpe greatly influenced his collector's eye, and in turn Wagstaff encouraged him to commit to photography as his primary form of expression.  Wagstaff's collection, ranging from distinctive images by acknowledged masters, and stunning works by then relatively obscure, easily dismissed, or unknown photographers, was soon recognized as one of the finest private holdings in the United States.  In 1984, he sold his 30,000 images to the Getty Museum for an unprecedented 5 million dollars.  One of my favorite past times is visiting this very institution specifically for the photography exhibits, many from the private collection.

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