This weekend I attended a gallery opening of an exhibition called ‘50 Americans’ featuring the work of Robert Mapplethorpe.

Usually I have to spend the first few minutes or an Art exhibition reading the background to understand the story that the gallery is telling through the art.  This one was different.

Rather then view the Mapplethorpe images through the lens of an expert Sean Kelly’s people found 50 Americans, one per state, to curate the selection.  They were nervous about what selections the wisdom of the crowd would choose to surface.  Some people involved with the Mapplethorpe foundation were initially skeptical of the project.

Proving once again trust and risk often yield success these 50 random Americans put together a selection of images that were stunning.  I was able to walk though the gallery, take in an image, and read a short selection about why that image was selected by an American.

The Americans ranged through every cross section I could think of, from successful businessmen (Owner of local favorite Dogfish) to a Rabbi to my lovely wife.


Mapplethorpe is often remembered for the controversy surrounding his images.  They have been called exploitive, indecent or simply obscene.  Surprisingly all I saw was crisp compelling photos with an extraordinary use of light and contrast.

“Experts” in academia has praised his artistic works.  “Experts” in law and government have condemned his work.

Turns out average Americans just want the opportunity to enjoy his work.

  See more of his work at Artsy’s Robert Mapplethorpe page