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Mapplethorpe + 25

About the Symposium

FotoFocus and the Contemporary Arts Center (CAC) in Cincinnati, Ohio, are pleased to announce a symposium on the occasion of the 25th anniversary of Robert Mapplethorpe’s controversial exhibition, The Perfect Moment. Under the leadership of Mary Ellen Goeke, Executive Director of FotoFocus; Raphaela Platow, Director of Contemporary Arts Center; and curated by Kevin Moore, Artistic Director of FotoFocus, the program will include an international roster of curators, critics, artists, and art world professionals who will meet for a two-day event on October 23 and 24, 2015, at the CAC, to discuss the significance and implications of the exhibition and Mapplethorpe’s career and legacy as these have evolved over the past 25 years. Download the full press release here.



6:00pm Reception with Light Bites and Cash Bar

7:00pm Keynote Lecture by Germano Celant, Independent Curator, Milan–New York with Live Feed

A public, live feed of Germano Celant’s Black Box keynote lecture will be broadcast in the lobby, followed by a party hosted by KNOW WAVE.

8:45pm Reception and Party Hosted by KNOW WAVE

The KNOW WAVE DJ line-up is Tigga Calore, Cakes da Killa, and Byrell The Great



9:00am Breakfast Reception

10:00am Panel: The Exhibition, The Contemporary Arts Center, and Arts Censorship

Moderated by Raphaela Platow, Director, Contemporary Arts Center, Cincinnati, with panelists: Dennis Barrie, Principal, Barrie Projects, and former Contemporary Arts Center Director, Cleveland; Jock Reynolds, Director, Yale University Art Gallery, New Haven; H. Louis Sirkin, Senior Counsel, Santen & Hughes, and former trial counsel to Dennis Barrie and the Contemporary Arts Center, Cincinnati; and Michael Ward Stout, President, The Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation, New York


11:30am Comment by Robert Reid-Pharr, Professor, The Graduate Center, The City University of New York


12:00pm Panel: The Artist’s Circle and Studio

Moderated by Philip Gefter, Author and Photo Historian, New York, with panelists: Judy Linn, Artist, New York; Robert Sherman, Promoter and Host, Chateau Marmont, Los Angeles; and Carol Squiers, Curator, International Center of Photography, New York


1:30pm Panel: Curators Curate Mapplethorpe

Moderated by Kevin Moore, Artistic Director and Curator, FotoFocus, New York, with panelists: Jennifer Blessing, Senior Curator of Photography, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York; Paul Martineau, Associate Curator, Department of Photographs, The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles; and Britt Salvesen, Curator, Wallis Annenberg Photography Department, Los Angeles County Museum of Art


3:00pm Closing Keynote by Catherine Opie, Artist and Professor of Photography, University of California, Los Angeles


4:00pm Oral History Reception at the 21c Museum Hotel

Hosted by Sarah Douglas, Editor-In-Chief, ARTnews, New York. Visitors are invited to share their stories of the 1990 Mapplethorpe exhibition, reflect on its impact, and comment on issues raised in the symposium.


Historical Context for a Symposium

Robert Mapplethorpe:The Perfect Moment opened on April 7, 1990, at the Contemporary Arts Center in Cincinnati in a climate of national cultural unrest. The exhibition immediately sparked controversy when politicians took offense to the show and the use of public funds provided by the National Endowment of the Arts (NEA) to support it, leading to the indictment of the CAC and Director Dennis Barrie on obscenity charges. Similar controversy had resulted in the cancellation of the exhibition tour at the Corcoran Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., the previous year. The historic trial that followed—where for the first time a museum and its director faced criminal charges because of an art exhibition—brought national attention to the subject of public funding for the arts, as well as arts censorship.


Twenty-five years later, numerous reassessments of the artist’s career have prompted fresh insights. The symposium, Mapplethorpe + 25, will revolve around this revitalized interest in Mapplethorpe as curators, artists, critics and others explore the broad question: what does Mapplethorpe’s work tell us about the culture we have inherited and inhabit today?

About Robert Mapplethorpe

Robert Mapplethorpe was born in 1946 in Floral Park, Queens. He studied drawing, painting, and sculpture at Pratt Institute in Brooklyn. Influenced by artists such as Joseph Cornell and Marcel Duchamp, he also experimented with various materials in mixed-media collages, including images cut from books and magazines. He eventually began producing his own photographs with a Polaroid camera and in 1973 received his first solo gallery exhibition titled “Polaroids” at the Light Gallery in New York City. Two years later he acquired a Hasselblad medium-format camera and began shooting his friends and acquaintances, some of which were involved in the New York S & M scene—by the late 1970s, he grew increasingly interested in documenting that scene. In 1986, he was diagnosed with AIDS. Despite his declining health, he continued to make strides in his career, including his first major American museum retrospective at the Whitney Museum of American Art in 1988. Mapplethorpe passed away in 1989, but his legacy lives on through his work, which is represented by galleries and in the collections of major museums around the world.


For an extended biography of Robert Mapplethorpe, visit the Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation’s website.

Symposium Partners
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Contemporary Arts Center



Mapplethorpe + 25

October 23 + 24, 2015

Contemporary Arts Center

Cincinnati, Ohio


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