Using two retrospectives at LA’s Getty and LACMA museums as a backdrop, this definitive portrait profiles the controversial artist from early childhood, to his beginnings in New York City and his meteoric rise in the art world, to his untimely death in 1989.

The only thing more outrageous than Robert Mapplethorpe’s photographs was his life. He was obsessed with magic and in particular, with what he saw as the magic of photography and the magic of sex. He pursued both with insatiable dedication.

“Look at the pictures.” With these words, Jesse Helms denounced the work of Robert Mapplethorpe. Twenty-five years later, the first and most complete documentary about the artist since his death, by acclaimed directors Fenton Bailey and Randy Barbato, does just that,with unprecedented unlimited access to his archives and work.

Mapplethorpe might have had hundreds of lovers, but only a few were key relationships, almost all of whom are present in the film. Rounding out this portrait of the artist are the recollections of his older sister Nancy and youngest brother Edward. An artist and photographer in his own right, Edward worked as Robert’s assistant for many years and was responsible for much of the technical excellence of the work.

But the most prominent voice in the documentary is Mapplethorpe’s own. Thanks to a number of rediscovered interviews, he is our narrator. Completely candid, shockingly honest, he speaks about his life, loves, and work. Seen through his eyes, they were a seamless whole, a complete work of art.

The result is a portrait of the artist who dedicated his life not only to becoming an artist but also to making his chosen medium, photography, respected and valued as a fine art. And he succeeded; His final show, The Perfect Moment, self-planned as he was dying of AIDS, proved to be a time bomb, igniting a culture war that still reverberates today. And since his death, his Foundation, worth hundreds of millions, has made multi-million dollar gifts enabling museums from the Guggenheim to the Getty to set up and maintain photography collections.

SCREENS AS PART OF THE AGO FILM SERIES “ART ON SCREEN”, JANUARY 18 to 28, 2017

Art Gallery of Ontario – 317 Dundas St W, Toronto
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This is your only chance to see this critically lauded doc theatrically in Canada, make sure you get your tickets in advance! Later evening screenings added for Jan. 19-20, as well as dates from Jan. 25-28. Tickets

The movie is also nominated for a best foreign-language Oscar this year, and is also the most nominated film at the upcoming Canadian Screen Awards, including for Best Picture and Best Director.

USA/ GERMANY – 108 MINUTES – COLOUR & BLACK AND WHITE – IN ENGLISH
A FILM BY FENTON BAILEY AND RANDY BARBATO
*Courtesy HBO Canada

There’s also a great exhibition on Mapplethorpe happening in Montreal until January 22nd, 2017.

About the Author

Bryen Dunn is a freelance journalist with a focus on travel, lifestyle, entertainment and hospitality. He has an extensive portfolio of celebrity interviews with musicians, actors and other public personalities. He enjoys discovering delicious eats, tasting spirited treats, and being mesmerized by musical beats.