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A look at the life and contribution of Sam Wagstaff (1921-1987), curator, trend-setter, collector of photographs, and lover and guide to Robert Mapplethorpe (1946-1989), told chronologically with archival footage, photographs, and contemporary interviews. Wagstaff is upper class, handsome, and gay, reinventing himself after World War II as a curator, with extraordinary success. By the 1970s, he's friends with Mapplethorpe and Patti Smith, his mother has left him a fortune, and he's collecting old photographs by the score. Many who comment discuss his largely forgotten contribution to art - the discovery of photography. The film sets the record straight. Written by
insight into the art of talented curator/collector Sam Wagstaff
To screen at Brisbane Queer Film Festival 2008 (on 25th May). A documentary purporting to reveal, for historical accuracy and posterity, the achievements and broad influence of radical USA art curator and collector Sam Wagstaff. We're given more than enough reason to respect and celebrate Sam Wagstaff in his own right as a strongly individual creative artist, but someone whose reputation could too easily be overshadowed by the people he was associated with especially his long term lover, the notoriously risqué photographer Robert Mapplethorpe.
I especially enjoyed the section dealing with Sam Wagstaff's obsession in travelling the globe to collect fine photographic works on a very broad scale routinely setting new records at auction (and pissing people off in the process). We're told that, more than nearly all of his art world contemporaries, he saw photography as having unique intrinsic value. Eventually he sold his collection of "overvalued" photographs for five million dollars.
Robert Mapplethorpe's long term friend and flatmate Patti Smith naturally became a very good friend of Sam Wagstaff. Patti gives us a confidant's perspective on both men's lives and passions.
This is interesting as a slice of queer cultural heritage but I anticipate that any student of art and photography will find this film to be extraordinarily entertaining.
The film is much more about Sam Wagstaff than it is about Robert Mapplethorpe (or their relationship), but the point is made that Sam inspired, supported and enabled Mapplethorpe to achieve decidedly more than 15 minutes of fame.
The audio editing could be the only weak technical point for some strange reason (at least in the stereo screener DVD) the living testimonies are mixed extremely to the right channel and are very feint in comparison to the narration.
NB: What we're seeing here at BQFF is 69 minutes long and according to the listing at IMDb.com it should be 77 minutes.
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