Self Portrait, 1975
Imperfect Moments: Mapplethorpe and Censorship Twenty Years LaterFebruary 12-13, 2009
Two decades ago, the Institute of Contemporary Art at the University of Pennsylvania organized Robert Mapplethorpe: The Perfect Moment. The traveling retrospective was curated by Janet Kardon, who was the ICA Director from 1979 to 1989 and who organized many pioneering exhibitions for the institution. The show fell victim to public outcry against government sponsorship of "obscene" art when Washington's Corcoran Gallery of Art canceled its stop on the tour for fear of negative repercussions, especially its possible impact on NEA appropriations. The Corcoran's decision sparked a controversial national debate: Should tax dollars support the arts? Who decides what is "obscene" or "offensive" in public exhibitions? And if art can be considered free speech, is it a violation of the First Amendment to revoke federal funding on grounds of obscenity? To this day, these questions remain very much at issue. The United States continues to have no clear or official cultural policy; the federal government does not grant fellowships to individual artists; and obscenity-based censorship persists, along with other content-based restrictions. Co-presented by the Institute of Contemporary Art and the Philadelphia Exhibitions Initiative at The Pew Center for Arts & Heritage, this two-day symposium commemorating the 20th anniversary of Mapplethorpe's exhibition brings together world-renowned artists, critics, and scholars to examine the legacy of the culture wars of the 1990s on the arts in the United States, as well as the issues that artists and art institutions face today.
Self portrait, 1988
No pre-registration required. Seating is limited and available on a first come, first served basis.
Thursday, February 12Meyerson Hall B1, 201 South 34th Street @ 5:30pm
- 1989: The Perfect Moment
- Keynote: Mapplethorpe's Beauty
- Performance: Patti Smith
Friday, February 13Annenberg School 110, 3620 Walnut Street
- Introduction · 9:45am
Claudia Gould and Paula Marincola
- 1989: Battleground Year · 10am
- Panel: Artists - The Question of Freedom · 10:30am-12:30pm
Moderator: Richard Meyer
Panelists: Karen Finley · Tim Miller · Andres Serrano
- Panel: Institutions -The Question of Courage · 2-4pm
Moderator: Robert Storr
Panelists: Michael Brenson · Sheldon Hackney · Kathy Halbreich · Raymond Learsy
|Download papers from the symposium:|
|»||Keynote: "Mapplethorpe's Beauty"
by David Joselit (Thursday, February 12, 2009).
|»||"1989: Battleground Year"
by Michael Brenson (Friday, February 13, 2009).
Download essays from the exhibition catalogue:
|»||Kardon, Janet, "The Perfect Moment,"
Robert Mapplethorpe, The Perfect Moment, 1988, Institute of Contemporary Art, pgs. 9-13.
|»||Kardon, Janet, "Robert Mapplethorpe Interview,"
Robert Mapplethorpe, The Perfect Moment, 1988, Institute of Contemporary Art, pgs. 23-29.
|»||Joselit, David, "Robert Mapplethorpe's Poses,"
Robert Mapplethorpe, The Perfect Moment, 1988, Institute of Contemporary Art, pgs. 19-21.
For information on recommended hotels in the area please go to the University of Pennsylvania main website for a list of accommodations.
Patti Smith, 1987
Michael Brenson is an author and art critic who was a staff writer at The New York Times during the Mapplethorpe censorship controversy.
Karen Finley is a performance artist who successfully sued the federal government for the restoration of her vetoed NEA grant.
Claudia Gould is the Daniel W. Dietrich, II Director at the Institute of Contemporary Art, University of Pennsylvania.
Sheldon Hackney is the Boies Professor of U.S. History at the University of Pennsylvania. He was president of the University of Pennsylvania during the controversy and later became chairman of the National Endowment for the Humanities.
Kathy Halbreich is Associate Director of the Museum of Modern Art, New York and former Director of the Walker Art Center.
David Joselit is Chair of the Department of the History of Art at Yale University. He is author of Infinite Regress: Marcel Duchamp 1910-1941 (1998), American Art Since 1945 (2003), and most recently, Feedback: Television against Democracy (2007). Joselit contributed an essay entitled "Robert Mapplethorpe's Poses" to The Perfect Moment exhibition catalogue in 1989.
Janet Kardon curated Robert Mapplethorpe: The Perfect Moment and was the Director of the
Raymond Learsy has been a collector of contemporary art for over 35 years. During the Reagan administration he served as a Presidential appointee to the National Council of the National Endowment for the Arts. He is a graduate of The Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania and currently serves on the Board of the the Whitney Museum of American Art.
Tim Miller is a performance artist and one of the "NEA 4" who successfully sued the federal government with the help of the ACLU for violation of their first ammendment rights. His most recent book 1001 BEDS won the Lambda Literary Award for best book in Drama-Theatre.
Paula Marincola is the Executive Director of The Pew Center for Arts & Heritage and also Director of the Center's Philadelphia Exhibitions Initiative.
Andres Serrano is an artist who was a central figure in the culture wars when his work Piss Christ was labeled "obscene."
Patti Smith is an influential singer-songwriter and poet. She was a lifelong friend of Mapplethorpe, whose art influenced her musical development and artistic sensibilities.
Robert Storr is Dean of the School of Fine Arts at Yale University, as well as an artist, critic and curator. He was the senior curator of painting and sculpture at the Museum of Modern Art, has been a contributing editor at Art in America since 1981, and was the Director of the 2007 Venice Biennale, the first American invited to assume that position.
Judith Tannenbaum is the Richard Brown Baker Curator of Contemporary Art at the Rhode Island School of Design Museum of Art. Tannenbaum was the Associate Director of the Institute of Contemporary Art during the planning of The Perfect Moment, and was the interim Director during the ensuing controversy.
All Mapplethorpe works © Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation. Used by Permission.
This program is co-presented by the