Black White + Gray: A Portrait of Sam Wagstaff and Robert Mapplethorpe (2007)

Movie


Black White + Gray: A Portrait of Sam Wagstaff and Robert Mapplethorpe (2007)

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.
USA
Germany
IMDb  6.8 /10
Creators
Director James Crump
Writer James Crump
Information
Release Date2007-10-19
Runtime1h 17mins
GenreDocumentary, Biography, Romance
Content RatingNot Rated (Not Rated)
Awards
CompanyArthouse Films, LM Media
CountryUSA, Germany
LanguageEnglish
Pierre Apraxine
Pierre Apraxine
Self
Self (archive footage)
Raymond Foye
Raymond Foye
Self
Jeffrey Fraenkel
Jeffrey Fraenkel
Self - Fraenkel Gallery
Philippe Garner
Philippe Garner
Self
Ralph Gibson
Ralph Gibson
Self
Timothy Greenfield-Sanders
Timothy Greenfield-Sanders
Self - photographer
John Giorno
John Giorno
Self - poet
Tukey Koffend
Tukey Koffend
Self - childhood friend
Self (archive footage)
Jean-Jacques Naudet
Jean-Jacques Naudet
Self
Eugenia Parry
Eugenia Parry
Self
Self - Interview Magazine

Black White + Gray

Black White + Gray: A Portrait of Sam Wagstaff and Robert Mapplethorpe is a 2007 American documentary film directed by James Crump. The film chronicles the symbiotic relationship between Sam Wagstaff, an American museum curator and collector of fine art, and Robert Mapplethorpe, the American fine art photographer whose controversial images were at the center of debate about public funding for the arts and the culture wars of the late 1980s. The film also explores the relationship both men shared with poet/musician Patti Smith in the New York art world of the 1970s.


Reception

Stephen Holden of The New York Times reviewed Black White + Gray, calling it, "a potent exercise in art-world mythography that might be nicknamed 'The Prince and the Punk.'" Vince Aletti pronounced the film "fascinating" in The New Yorker's Critic's Notebook, writing "Savvy, charismatic, and devilishly handsome, Wagstaff found the perfect foil and goad in Mapplethorpe, but it was the collector, not the photographer, who left the most indelible and idiosyncratic mark on the medium they shared." James Christopher declared in The Times of London, "This is a terrific documentary by James Crump about the unsung collector, Wagstaff, and his lopsided relationship with his hungry young lover, Mapplethorpe." Writing for Crave, Sundance Fellow and film critic, Ernest Hardy pronounced, "Crump’s willingness to present a dissenting voice to what might otherwise come off as an almost fairy-tale pairing might seem an obvious directorial choice, but as documentaries slide more and more into blatant hagiography, it’s a relief to find a filmmaker inserting grainier perspectives for a grainier film." Philip Gefter, a biographer of Sam Wagstaff, wrote about the film for The New York Times in anticipation of its premiere at the Tribeca Film Festival.

The film has a score of 85% on Rotten Tomatoes.


Release

The film premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival on May 1, 2007 and theatrically via Arthouse Films on October 19, 2007.