Wagstaff: Before and After Mapplethorpe

Philip Gefter. Norton/Liveright, $35 (576p) ISBN 978-0-87140-437-4
Until fairly recently, Sam Wagstaff was best remembered as the patron and lover of photographer Robert Mapplethorpe. Gefter’s (Photography After Frank) rich biography shows this collector and curator not only as a trendsetter in the art world, but a “tastemaker of historic consequences” who shaped art history during the second half of the 20th century. Handsome, wealthy, and Yale educated, Wagstaff abandoned his career in advertising to study art history under Renaissance scholar Richard Offner at NYU. In 1964, he curated the first exhibition of minimalist art, called Black, White, and Gray, at the Wadsworth Atheneum Museum in Hartford, Conn.; however he was “never officially recognized as the first art-world professional to identify the movement.” His greatest contribution, according to the author, was as an independent advocate for and connoisseur of photography, as evident by Wagstaff’s legendary photo collection, now on display at Los Angeles’s J. Paul Getty Museum. Gefter, a former staffer at the New York Times, writes gracefully and with a sure command of his subject. Wagstaff witnessed dramatic cultural shifts in the art world and in the gay community, all of which are vividly tracked and smartly explained. Also commendable is the way Gefter traces the arc of the Wagstaff-Mapplethorpe relationship without letting Mapplethorpe steal the show—as the photographer is wont to do. Photos. Agent: Jim Rutman, Sterling Lord Literistic. (Nov.)
Reviewed on: 08/11/2014
Release date: 11/01/2014
Genre: Nonfiction
Open Ebook - 576 pages - 978-1-63149-015-6
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