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Dianne Benson, Charlie Porter and Jack Walls on Robert Mapplethorpe

A new video on the exhibition Fashion, Clothes, People, Pictures

On the occasion of the online exhibition Robert Mapplethorpe: Fashion, Clothes, People, Pictures (2023), curator Charlie Porter discusses Mapplethorpe’s relationship with fashion alongside the artist’s collaborators, Dianne Benson and Jack Walls.

“Actually, photographers were maybe thought of as fashion photographers rather than artists. I feel like he was navigating that relationship in his work, often making work for advertising or for magazines. So it’s this curious situation where he did work for fashion but it certainly wasn’t the thing that centred him. It’s a kind of weird part of his life; a weird tension in his life.” — Charlie Porter

Dianne Benson was a maverick 1980s retailer, who has contributed to establishing New York City’s Soho neighborhood as a prime fashion destination. She commissioned Mapplethorpe on multiple occasions to photograph selected garments sold in her store, such as this Seagull coat designed by JC de Castelbajac.

Charlie Porter is a writer, fashion critic and curator, whose book What Artists Wear is published by Penguin. He has written for The Financial Times, The Guardian, The New York Times, GQ, Luncheon, i-D and Fantastic Man. Porter was a juror for the Turner Prize in 2019, the same year he curated the group show Palimpsest at Lismore Castle Arts, Ireland. His next exhibition will be Bring No Clothes: Bloomsbury and Fashion at Charleston Lewes, UK, opening September 2023. Coinciding will be his next book for Penguin, Bring No Clothes: Bloomsbury and the Philosophy of Fashion.

Jack Walls is a Chicago-born artist who has been a vital part of the New York art world for over 30 years. He is a writer, poet, painter, and performer. In his early years in New York, he met and lived as a couple with the photographer Robert Mapplethorpe. This relationship lasted until Mapplethorpe’s untimely death in 1989.