Turning the Tables
"The self-proclaimed, self-anointed art experts would scoff and say, ‘Oooh, terrible,’ but I like beautiful things, not modern art. I can’t even figure out that sculpture in the Hart Building."
- Senator Jese Helms
Alexander Calder, Mountains and Clouds, 1986.











Piss Christ

Andres Serrano, Piss Christ, 1987.











Transcripts of Senate debate on Piss Christ photo
Editorial on the work's recent destruction
Piss Christ destroyed after being hammered and stabbed with a screwdriver in 2011










Andres Serrano explains:
"As a former Catholic, and as someone who even today is not opposed to being called a Christian, I felt I had every right to use the symbols of the Church and resented being told not to."
"I have always felt that my work is religious, not sacrilegious."
"I think if the Vatican is smart, someday they'll collect my work."
Sister Wendy on Serrano's Piss Christ
Andres Serrano, Madonna and Child, 1989.










ACT-UP Action at St. Patrick's Cathedral, NY, 1989.











Barbara Kruger, We Don't Need Another Hero, 1987.





















Barbara Kruger, Man's Best Friend, 1987.

Barbara Kruger, Your body is a battleground, 1989.










ACT-UP, Kiss In demonstration flyer, 1986.
ACT-UP, Reagan's AIDS Gate, 1987.











6 Gay Activists, Silence Equals Death, 1987.
Gran Fury, The Government has Blood on its Hands, 1988.











Keith Haring, Act Up, 1989.











ACT-UP, Kissing Doesn't Kill, 1990.











Zoe Leonard for Fierce Pussy, Are You a Boy or a Girl?, 1992.











Historic Context
1965 National Endowment for the Arts created, $2.4 million budget
1978 Assassination of first openly gay elected official, SF Supervisor, Harvey Milk along side Mayor, George Muscone
1981 AIDS first reported in popular press
1985 More than 1,000 San Franciscans have died of AIDS
Rock Hudson dies of AIDS
1986 William F. Buckley, in a March 18, 1986, New York Times opinion article, called for mandatory testing for HIV and said that HIV-positive gay men should have this information forcibly tattooed on their buttocks (and IV-drug users on their arms)
1987 "Black Monday" stock market crash
AIDS Memorial Quilt project begun by SF Gay Rights Leaders
President Reagan first uses term "AIDS" in public
Robert Mapplethorpe,
American Flag, 1987.
71,176 diagnosed with AIDS and 41,027 of those dead
1988 Perfect Moment exhibition at Institute of Contemporary Arts, Philadelphia
1989 Berlin Wall torn down
Perfect Moment exhibition at the Museum of Contemprary Art, Chicago
Perfect Moment exhibition canceled two weeks before opening at Corcoran Gallery of Art in D.C.
Senate debate against NEA support of Perfect Moment
Robert Mapplethorpe dies of AIDS
1990 Perfect Moment exhibition at the University Art Museum, UC Berkeley
Germany reunited
Nelson Mandela released from prison
Keith Haring, Freddie Mercury, Craig Owens and Halston die of AIDS
Perfect Moment exhibition at Cincinnati Contemporary Arts
Dennis Barrie acquited of charges of pandering and obscenity related to Perfect Moment exhibition
1991 USSR desolved and Boris Yeltsin becomes Russian President
AIDS Ribbon campaign begun in conjunction with World AIDS Day
Magic Johnson publicly announces he is HIV positive
Isaac Asimov dies of AIDS
1992 David Wojnarowicz dies of AIDS
1994 Advent of the World Wide Web
Official end of white rule in South Africa
Elizabeth Glaser dies of AIDS
1997 Tony Blair becomes Prime Minister of Britain, ending 18 years of Conservative rule
"Dollie" the sheep cloned in UK
1996 Felix Gonzalez-Torres dies of AIDS





















Cala Lily

Robert Mapplethorpe, Calla Lily, 1984.
Robert Mapplethorpe, Poppy, 1988.











Female Nude

Male Nude

Robert Mapplethorpe, Untitled (female nude), 1981.
Robert Mapplethorpe, Untitled (male nude), 1981.











Robert Mapplethorpe, Ken and Tyler, 1985.
Robert Mapplethorpe, Derrick Cross, 1983.











Robert Mapplethorpe, Two Men Dancing, 1984.
Robert Mapplethorpe, Brian Ridley and Lyle Heeter, 1979.










"[Mapplethorpe's] various guises – militia man, gay sex fiend, femme fatale – reveal a committed exploration of Catholic themes familiar throughout art history: the debasement and transcendence of the flesh; transgression, punishment and confession; agony and ecstasy. As curator and art historian Germano Celant has observed, Mapplethorpe was deeply spiritual but he plunged headlong into the dark side of religion, courting something of a “Catholic inversion” characterised by an attraction to the demonic, the violent and the abject, all the while striving toward a vision of redemption, the conversion of suffering into grace through beauty, balance and stasis." - Kevin Moore in Whipping Up a Storm
Robert Mapplethorpe, Self-Portrait, 1983.
Robert Mapplethorpe, Self-Portrait, 1985.
Robert Mapplethorpe, Self-Portrait, 1980. Printed in 1999.











Self-Portrait with Bullwhip

Robert Mapplethorpe, Self-Portrait with Bullwhip, 1978.



LACMA presentation of Mapplethorpe's X, Y, and Z Portfolios











Frank Herrera, Corcoran protest, 1989.