Mapplethorpe: The Perfect Moment (exhibition)
Region: North America
Subject: Sexual/Gender Orientation, Explicit Sexuality, Nudity
Artist: Robert Mapplethorpe, Contemporary Arts Center of Cincinnati
Confronting Bodies: Cincinnati City officials
Dates of Action: 1990
Location: Cincinnati, Ohio, USA
Description of Artwork: A retrospective show for the late Robert Mapplethorpe which spanned twenty-five years of his career. The comprehensive work included celebrity portraits, self portraits, many nude images (some of which were children), flowers, and sadomasochistic activities. The exhibition opened at the Institute of Contemporary Arts in Philadelphia in the winter of 1988.
The Incident: Many observers and elected officials were extremely disturbed and upset by the nudity of both adults and children in the works and believed that the work was not in accordance with pornography laws in Ohio.
Results of Incident: Officials of the Contemporary Arts Center of Cincinnati tried to be prudent: they restricted access to the museum to those over 18 and relegated the most disturbing and explicit of the 175 photographs to a separate, further isolated room. This was not enough, however, to keep a local sheriff from staging a raid on the exhibit and seeking indictments against museum director Dennis Barrie on obscenity charges; nor was it enough to keep the grand jury from handing up an indictment. Although it was deemed criminal to possess "kiddie-porn materials," the Ohio laws leave legitimate museum displays unaffected by this law. Dennis Barie and the Contemporary Arts Center of Cincinnati were acquitted, but this incident sparked debate about what is appropriate for the government to control regarding the content of art.
Source: NEWS ANAYLSIS : Ruling Causes a Stir in Mapplethorpe Controversy : Supreme Court: Scholars say the decision upholding Ohio pornography law is unlikely to have much effect on Cincinnati dispute. But some see the prosecution as an escalation of threats to artistic freedom.