Mapplethorpe Exhibitor Doubts Legal Actions

From Reuters

The director of the Boston gallery that will host a controversial touring exhibit of Robert Mapplethorpe photographs next month says he expects some protests but no legal challenges to the show.

"We're not anticipating any legal challenges at the moment," David Ross, director of the Institute of Contemporary Arts, told a news conference.

The exhibit, "Robert Mapplethorpe: The Perfect Moment," consists of about 160 Mapplethorpe photographs, mainly of flowers, nudes and faces. But it includes five works depicting homoerotic acts and two of nude children from Mapplethorpe's "Z" portfolio, which some politicians and religious groups have branded obscene.

The National Endowment for the Arts came under fire for helping fund the show in Washington last summer, sparking a national debate on obscenity in the arts and fueling a congressional battle over the NEA's grant process.

The exhibit appeared in several cities without incident and drawing record-breaking crowds until it reached Cincinnati, where a gallery and its director face a jury trial on obscenity charges for exhibiting Mapplethorpe's works. Record numbers also saw the show in Cincinnati, where it was closed for only one day while officials photographed the works.

Ross told reporters that several groups, which he refused to name, have vowed to mount protests against the show and that he has been asked privately not to exhibit the "Z" portfolio.

But Ross, a friend of the late Mapplethorpe who died in Boston last year, said there is "no chance, no way that this exhibit will be edited."

Ross said the small gallery in Boston's Back Bay expected up to 70,000 people to see the exhibit, about as many as ordinarily visit the museum in an entire year.

Membership in the institute, which will be the last gallery to host the exhibition, has in recent weeks increased 50%, he said.

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