Robert Mapplethrope by Gary Indiana
From: BOMB 22/Winter 1988
Gary Indiana: Here’s a good question: why haven’t there been any museum shows of your work in New York?
Robert Mapplethorpe: That is a good question, but you could figure it out pretty easily. The contents of certain photographs are a bit more than certain people can deal with. It’s that way to a degree, anyway. The fact that I’m a New Yorker makes it a lot easier to get shows in European institutions—it’s easier for them to take a show of controversial material from a foreigner, someone who isn’t from there.
GI: When you do a show, do you have problems with censorship?
RM: Indirectly, yes. I haven’t had someone specifically say, “I can’t do that because this picture’s in there,” or “You better take that one out.” But it’s a heavy statement for somebody to take me on—in other words, it’s a lot easier just to avoid it. I’ve had a lot of that over the years. I am having a show at ICP in Philadelphia which is coming up in December, 1988; hopefully, that will travel to New York. We’re working on it now.
GI: Have there been situations where a gallery or institution says they want to do a show of your work, and they specify what kind of work they want?
RM: Maybe. It doesn’t bother me. I’ve always been easy and flexible about that, except when it comes to showing in my New York commercial gallery—I’m very specific about what I want in that show. But when it comes to other places, I like all the pictures equally. I don’t care if somebody just wants to show flowers; I’ll just show flowers. I’ve never been strict—you know—”If that picture doesn’t go in, I don’t do the show.” I’m much more flexible than that. If someone wants to do a portrait show, I do a portrait show. It’s not usually an issue, because I don’t care. Sometimes they feel they can put certain kinds of pictures in, but can’t go any further—maybe a cock, but it couldn’t be hard. That’s all right. I’ve seen too many artists being so overly sensitive to how their work is represented, and it’s so unattractive that I try to avoid it at all costs.