Psychology of Tyranny for a Philosophy of Despotism


by Sartre


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Black, white and gay

Between the Lines May 15, 2008 | Azzopardi, Chris DIA celebrates the impact of late curator Sam Wagstaff with party, film ‘Black, White + Gray’ 5:30 p.m. May 21 Detroit Institute of Art Tickets: $35 (advance), $40 (door) 313-833-4020 DETROIT -As a curator at the Detroit Institute of Arts, Sam Wagstaff left a mark on the late-20th century contemporary scene – and on the queer movement. Pre-“Will & Grace,” being out was as risky as a subprime mortgage, but Wagstaff, who worked at the DIA from 1969 to 1971, didn’t hide his relationship with male-nude photographer Robert Mapplethorpe. site detroit institute of art

“He took risks, including the risk of being out at a time when society shunned such honesty,” says the DIA’s current associate curator, Becky Hart.

And she speaks from a firsthand account. Her father, who came out in the early ‘ 80s, took that leap. Like him, she says, Wagstaff was courageous and honest in every aspect of his life.

“Professional men, including my father, stood to lose everything by being out,” she says. “Sam and other accomplished professionals forged an accepted place in wider society and enriched us all.” His life and work’s impact on art and culture will be honored with “Black, White + Gray: A Celebration of Sam Wagstaff” at 5:30 p.m. on May 21. Following a strolling supper and cocktail party, the event – which is also sponsored by Ferndale-based Affirmations Community Center and ADDS Partnership Michigan – includes the Michigan premier of the film “Black, White + Gray: A Portrait of Sam Wagstaff and RobertMapplethorpe”at7:30 p.m. After, a panel discussion will be ledby Mark Rosen thai, DIA adjunct curator of contemporary art, with art world figures who knew and worked with Wagstaff. in our site detroit institute of art

Hart never did, but she still was drawn to his sense of conviction, which she calls “magnetic” because “the brave were drawn to him while others were repulsed.” Mapplethorpe was one of those who couldn’tresist, and though both men succumbed to an AIDS-related illness in the late ’80s, Wagstaff’s legacy won’t soon die.

“As a risk-taker and charismatic person, Sam put himself on the line in his work and his life,” Hart says. “Whether people agreed with his opinions or actions, they respected the strong core -his dogged conviction that once he got behind an idea, an artwork or a person, he was fully there.” The DIA’s remarkable strength in minimalist and pop movements, Hart says, comes from Wagstaff s remarkable leadership. Also, Wagstaff was an influential proponent of Detroit’s fledgling artist community, inspiring and supporting what would become the Cass Corridor movement.

During his tenure, he acquired vital pieces of art, including Andy Warhol’s “Self-Portrait,” Mark di Suvero’s “Tom” and Tony Smith’s “Gracehoper” – which, Hart says, “is an example of (his) courage and foresight.” “Never shy about opportunities, he was responsible for the core of the DIA’s pop art collection,” she continues, referencing works by Claes Oldenburg, Roy Lichtenstein, and Robert Rauschenberg.

He left behind an indelible mystique that filmmaker James Crump has captured in his documentary “Black, White + Gray: A Portrait of Sam Wagstaff andRobert Mapplethorpe.” Filled with intimate recollections by Wagstaff’s friends and colleagues, including punk-rock poet Patti Smith, writers Dominick Dunne and John Richardson and other art world luminaries, the film chronicles Wagstaff’s life and how he became the mentor and lover of Mapplethorpe.

“The interviews with people who knew Sam were insightful and easy to understand, as they are accompanied by archival photos,” Hart says. “The importance of photos was actually summed up by Sam when he said to Robert Mapplethorpe, ‘You’ve got to crash though the sight barrier and tell your mind to shut up. Photography is silent talk.'” But silent was something Wagstaff thankfully wasn’t.

[Author Affiliation] Azzopardi, Chris


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