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ART ROCK LONDON Robert Mapplethorpe's seldom screened film work, and Thank You For The Music at Spruth Magers Lee


Robert Mapplethorpe's seldom screened film work, and Thank You For The Music at Spruth Magers Lee

by Joe Ambrose, Literary Editor (2005-2018)
first published: August, 2006

approximate reading time: minutes

The rockers featured include noble beasts of the jungle such as The Clash, Pete Doherty, Debbie Harry, the Velvets, and Zeppelin - the usual (but worthy) suspects

The Alison Jacques Gallery is curating a Robert Mapplethorpe exhibition which focuses on the photographer's seldom-screened film work. November 4 would have been Mapplethorpe's 60th birthday.  

During the exhibition, the gallery will continually screen Mapplethorpe and Patti Smith's black and white film Still Moving (1978) and also Mapplethorpe's color film Lady (1984), made in collaboration with body builder Lisa Lyon. On view will be a large group of Mapplethorpe photographs of Patti Smith, including early Polaroids, as well as more well-known silver gelatin shots.  

Mapplethorpe and Smith's close association - which blossomed at the Chelsea Hotel –will also be reflected in images of them both, shot by photographer Judy Linn in the early 70s. Other works will include: a key drawing by Patti Smith relating to The Coral Sea (a book of her poems published in 1996) alongside Mapplethorpe's photograph Coral Sea (1983) and his famous American Flag photograph (1977).

Smith and Mapplethorpe's 13-minute 16mm film Still Moving had its premiere at their show held at Robert Miller Gallery, New York in 1978. In the film Smith recites excerpts from several of her poems as well as improvising dialogues.  

On Friday, September 8 at 7pm, Tate Modern in collaboration with Alison Jacques Gallery will present an evening of poetry and song performed by Patti Smith. There will also be a screening on 16 mm film of Still Moving and a rare presentation of Nigel Finch's 1988 documentary: the only major broadcast featuring an interview with Mapplethorpe.

On September 11 and 12, Patti Smith and Kevin Shields will present The Coral Sea Sessions, an evening of poetry and music in remembrance of Mapplethorpe at Queen Elizabeth Hall, South Bank Centre.


Thank You for the Music is an exhibition on interfaces between the visual arts and rock music, mainly junked out and guitar driven rock. Not a saxophone or sensitive singer songwriter with a beard and receding hairline in sight. It's curated by Johannes Fricke Waldthausen and runs at Spruth Magers Lee until September 2, featuring stellar names like Liam Gillick, Mapplethorpe, Christian Marclay, David & Albert Maysles, Jonas Mekas, Paul Morrissey, Hedi Slimane, and Wolfgang Tillmans. The rockers featured include noble beasts of the jungle such as The Clash, Pete Doherty (above), Debbie Harry, the Velvets, and Zeppelin - the usual (but worthy) suspects.

I went along to the opening night party. I watched a glamorous German woman, mid-40s, talking to an art scene bore. The German woman, Anya, pointed in the direction of the Mapplethorpe portrait of Iggy Pop.

"I seen that one in concert last year." said Anya.

"Iggy Pop?" enquired the Art Bore. "I'm surprised he's still alive."

"Ohhh, he is really still alive" groaned Anya.

"They say he has a real big one." said Art Bore.

"Yes he has." said Anya firmly, like she's an expert on the subject. "Well... didn't actually see it but...e was so sexual, it was like I was seeing it."

"So he didn't whip it out?"

"No. Not actually."

"He used to whip it out all the time." recalled the Bore. "It must be getting old now, I mean, Iggy is in his 60s now."

"Yes, exactly!" said Anya, "But he still look so fresh and virile."

"Yeah, well, I think he's only getting started. His old man must be 90-something now. Jagger's old man is 90-something too. People are staying younger longer now." said Art Bore.

"Yes I guess." said Anya, her shameless eyes drifting towards the Mapplethorpe photo. "He looks much better now that he looks in that photograph and that photograph must be 20 years old."

Thank You For the Music examines music and pop culture, their various market mechanisms, and the liberation from traditional copyright restrictions as a ubiquitous source of artistic inspiration — one that has become a global phenomenon and a permanent aspect of everyday experience.

Joe Ambrose
Literary Editor (2005-2018)

Joe Ambrose wrote 14 books, including Chelsea Hotel Manhattan and The Fenian Reader. Joe sadly passed away in 2018. Visit Joe's website which was completed just before his passing, for more info:
about Joe Ambrose »»



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