To the editors:
We at the Museum of Contemporary Art were pleased that the Robert Mapplethorpe exhibition, on view at the museum through April 16, received such a lengthy and thoughtful review in your March 17 issue. We do, however, request an opportunity to clarify a misconception on the part of your reviewer, Catherine Edelman, which seems to have shaped her attitude toward the exhibition.
Ms. Edelman accuses the MCA of timidity for not exhibiting Mapplethorpe's photographs of S & M subjects from the X, Y, and Z Portfolios in greater numbers and larger formats. Nowhere does she note that the exhibition was organized by another museum, the Institute of Contemporary Art in Philadelphia, with the MCA being one stop on a packaged national tour with no curatorial involvement. This is a surprising oversight, given that the exhibition's origin is clearly stated in the catalogue, on the exhibition's title wall, and in all press materials.
Perhaps the larger issue is whether or not this exhibition does a disservice to the representation of the artist's career output by not showing more and larger S & M photographs. On this matter, Ms. Edelman refers several times to last summer's exhibition at New York's Whitney Museum, which did show more of these subjects, and in larger formats. However, the comparison is not apt; the Whitney's show was not a retrospective and did not attempt a representative selection from the artist's twenty-year career. The ICA show is, and does. Given that ICA Curator Janet Kardon was a close friend of the artist and organized the exhibition and wrote its catalogue with Robert Mapplethorpe's direct involvement, we must assume that he agreed with Kardon's curatorial premises and her presentation of the X, Y, and Z Portfolios.
Thanks for this opportunity to set the record straight on an exhibition that Chicagoans have responded to with intense interest, and with record-breaking attendance.
Museum of Contemporary Art
Catherine Edelman replies:
"Robert Mapplethorpe: The Perfect Moment" is a traveling exhibition curated in Philadelphia at the ICA. Of course this is a pertinent fact; nonetheless I believe the MCA could have exercised more curatorial control in the exhibition.