To commemorate its new exhibition on the work of queer artist Robert Mapplethorpe, the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts held a special evening tour last week where over 100 patrons checked out the late photographer’s work while strutting their stuff in the buff.
The promotional event offered Mapplethorpe enthusiasts an immersive look at the museum’s retrospective on the artist, Focus: Perfection — Robert Mapplethorpe .
“When you look at his photos, you can see the diversity of bodies that he captured,” explained Thomas Bastien, the Museum’s Director of Education and Cultural Action. “We wanted to find a way to reflect that diversity for visitors to the exhibit.”
The museum collaborated with Montreal’s monthly LGBT magazine Fugues to create a viewing experience that would capture the diverse, queer nature of the artist’s work. Eventually, they landed on the idea of a nude preview after looking at similar programs at other museums.
“We learned that two other museums, in Sydney and Vienna, had done naked-visit events in the past [which] were very successful,” remarked Fugues editor Yves Lafontaine. “With the Mapplethorpe exhibit, it seemed the perfect match for us.”
Though organizers believed the idea would resonate with Mapplethorpe devotees, they were surprised at just how popular the event turned out to be.
“We had no idea the proposition would appeal to such a large number of people,” commented Lafontaine. “After the ad ran in our September issue, we thought maybe 35 people would sign up, but we had hundreds of inquiries, so we had to rethink the event to include more people.”
In the end, the museum whittled down the list to 100 visitors, the majority of which were men.
“I think initially people were a bit shy, but there was a cocktail first, so anyone with issues could get over it,” attendee Braden Scott described. “My initial response when I saw the ad was, ’This is a night for perverts.’ But then I thought about it and realized what a great idea it is, given Mapplethorpe’s art.”
“I’m very impressed that the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts did this,” he continued. “It shows that they are aware of what [Mapplethorpe] was doing and who he was speaking to—doing an event like this integrates the work with the spectator.”
Check out a preview from the event below.