Map­plethorpe, a body of scan­dal

Dom­i­nates the Paris art cal­en­dar this spring with two land­mark exhibitions. Ju­dith Ben­hamou–Huet, art critic, and writer Arthur Drey­fus fathom the mys­tery of an un­wit­tingly scan­dalous artist on a per­pet­ual jour­ney be­tween good and evil.

VOGUE Hommes International (English) - - FRONT PAGE - Robert Map­plethorpe

— “I like th­ese pho­tos for their clas­sic simplicity, and also for the way he looked for beauty in ev­ery­thing,” de­clared film–maker Sofia Cop­pola, who in 2011 cu­rated a Map­plethorpe ex­hi­bi­tion at Ga­lerie Thad­daeus Ropac in Paris. Three years later this fore­most Amer­i­can pho­tog­ra­pher, who died in 1989, re­turns with ever greater force in an ex­hi­bi­tion of more than two hun­dred of his works at the Grand Palais in Paris. They doc­u­ment ev­ery as­pect of his brief but in­tense ca­reer. At the same time, at the Rodin Mu­seum, some one hun­dred of Map­plethorpe’s pho­tos are be­ing shown in un­ex­pected jux­ta­po­si­tion with pieces by the French sculp­tor. Both great mod­ern artists worked with clas­si­cal forms of ex­pres­sion, each with the same at­ten­tion to de­tail and each as­sert­ing ob­ses­sive sex­ual de­sire. Within the same frame­work of black and white in a square for­mat, Map­plethorpe made vi­o­lent tran­si­tions be­tween crude rep­re­sen­ta­tions of the hu­man body ( in­clud­ing his own ) and still life ( flow­ers, fruit, mar­ble stat­u­ary, etc. ) in a fas­ci­nat­ing vol­u­met­ric of per­ish­able and im­per­ish­able forms. Ju­dith Ben­hamou–Huet, a jour­nal­ist who spe­cialises in the art mar­ket, is co– cu­ra­tor of the ex­hi­bi­tion at the Rodin Mu­seum and au­thor of Dans la vie noire et blanche de

Robert Map­plethorpe ( Gras­set ). She talked at length with the peo­ple who were close to Map­plethorpe — agents, lovers, nighthawks — and who wit­nessed the highs and lows in the ex­tra­or­di­nary ca­reer of a mid­dle–class boy who be­came the dar­ling of Man­hat­tan, who pho­tographed rock stars and artists, flaunted his love of S& M and his fascination with black men, and like an art­ful dodger picked his way through the web of New York so­ci­ety life. Ju­dith Ben­hamou–Huet sees Map­plethorpe’s work as be­ing at a cross­roads be­tween bi­o­graph­i­cal and con­cep­tual; he spawned the idea of art that rec­on­ciles, that takes us un­awares yet is im­me­di­ately ap­peal­ing, se­duces yet re­tains its mys­tery. Like Map­plethorpe the man, a devil with an an­gel’s face.

Self–Por­trait,

circa 1973.

Self–Por­trait,

1973.

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