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SEX & DEATH

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20 years ago, Robert Mapplethorpe’s photography exhibition, A Perfect Moment, replete with frankly sexual, highly stylized, unabashedly obscene imagery, caused such a ruckus, the National Endowment for the Arts, which partially funded the show, has never quite recovered its footing. ¬†Little has changed, as evidenced by the outcry against the current show at Glasgow’s Gallery of Modern Art, in which gay-themed works by Mapplethorpe and others have the locals abuzz. Controversy and revulsion aside, Mapplethorpe, it’s often forgotten, was a great photographer. And it’s pictures like this one–his last self-portrait, taken just months before he died in 1989 at age 42, and poignantly infused with the specter of death–that have staying power long after the headlines fade.

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