Asking to Be Looked at

Wayne Koestenbaum

  • Mapplethorpe: A Biography by Patricia Morrisroe
    Macmillan, 461 pp, £20.00, September 1995, ISBN 0 333 66941 X
  • Playing with the Edge: The Photographic Achievement of Robert Mapplethorpe by Arthur Danto
    California, 206 pp, £20.00, October 1995, ISBN 0 520 20051 9

New York’s Guggenheim Museum contains in an annex a covert Robert Mapplethorpe gallery, a sober exhibition space which, like the masterpieces of its namesake, seems consecrated to the unusual and the mortifying. The current show – Joel-Peter Witkin’s photographs of corpses, amputees and hermaphrodites – holds a grotesqueness sufficient to remind the visitor of how sweet, how antique already, the infamous Mapplethorpe images have become. At least his models were alive.

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