watch the first trailer for hbo's robert mapplethorpe documentary

'Look at the Pictures' is the first biopic on the artist since his death in 1989, and includes his most shocking images of BDSM subculture in 60s and 70s New York.

by Hannah Ongley
Mar 8 2016, 5:49pm


HBO's upcoming Robert Mapplethorpe documentary, Look at the Pictures, takes its name from a 1989 courtroom speech of Sen. Jesse Helms. "Robert Mapplethorpe, who spent the last years of his life promoting homosexuality... any senator who thinks that I'm attacking aesthetic art — if they have any doubt — then look at the pictures. Look at the pictures. Look at the pictures." The lawsuit took aim at Washington's Corcoran Gallery for daring to show Mapplethorpe's BDSM-heavy exhibition The Perfect Moment and the government for partially funding it.

Helms was hardly qualified on the subject of what constitutes good art. But his retrogressive opinion on Mapplethorpe's photos of homoerotic subculture in 60s and 70s New York was the prevailing one at the time. The first trailer for Look at the Pictures — the first biopic on the artist since his death in 1989 — splices in Mapplethorpe's most shocking images alongside commentary from the artist himself. "I always was fascinated with the idea of taking sexuality and bringing it to a level that it hadn't been to before," he says in a recording. 

Mapplethorpe: Look at the Pictures is directed by Fenton Bailey and Randy Barbato, with Dr. Who's Matt Smith and Girls' Zosia Mamet starring as Mapplethorpe and Patti Smith. It premieres Monday, April 4 on HBO. 


Text Hannah Ongley
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Robert Mapplethorpe
look at the pictures