The Perfect Moment

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Artist: Robert Mapplethorpe

Year: 1989

Date of Action: June 1989

Region: North America

Location: Washington D.C.

Subject: Explicit Sexuality, Nudity

Medium: Photography

Confronting Bodies: The Corcoran Gallery of Art

Description of Artwork: This exhibition is a collection of over 150 photographs, many of which including explicit homoerotic, violent and nude images.

The Incident: Many were offended and disturbed by the work of Robert Mapplethorpe. They found his use of nudity of both children and adults in his photography to be problematic and too controversial. Director of the Corcoran, Dr. Christina Orr-Cahall said that "our institution has always remained outside of the political arena...In a city with such Federal presence, this has been essential."

Results of Incident: Despite the Corcoran's lack of involvement with the government, the political climate did not seem hospitable enough for a controversial show such as "The Perfect Moment." With Congressional dispute regarding the National Endowment for the Arts, the gallery saw it as a very sensitive time. They felt that proceeding with the exhibition could be potentially detrimental to N.E.A. appropriations, which could hurt the Corcoran as well as many other art institutions. Many members of the art world saw this decision as a wise one, but Jock Reynolds, The director of the Washington Project, believed it to be "an outright cave-in to conservative political forces who are once again trying to muzzle freedom of expression in the arts." Jock Reynolds and The Washington Project for the Arts then considered presenting the show on their own.


Corcoran, to Foil Dispute, Drops Mapplethorpe Show