Black White + Gray: A Portrait of Sam Wagstaff and Robert Mapplethorpe

3 out of 5 stars
Scion of Central Park South privilege, art collector and curator Sam Wagstaff may be best known for his rough romance with Robert Mapplethorpe, 25 years his junior. James Crump’s doc does an admirable job restoring Wagstaff’s significance, but too often by vilifying Mapplethorpe. Snooty narrator Joan Juliet Buck sniffs that the artist “would introduce [Wagstaff] to the darker pockets of the gay demimonde”; one art historian cackles, “What a little nelly Sam got when Mapplethorpe was around!” Thankfully, a beatific Patti Smith, Mapplethorpe’s onetime lover, ends the film on a dignified note by reading her song “Paths That Cross,” which she dedicated to Wagstaff.


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James Crump
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