No smoke without art

Robert Mapplethorpe photographic exhibition 2013'' ''Old Gala House will host an exhibition of original photographs taken by the late Robert Mapplethorpe from 11 May to 11 August

Robert Mapplethorpe photographic exhibition 2013'' ''Old Gala House will host an exhibition of original photographs taken by the late Robert Mapplethorpe from 11 May to 11 August

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The use of an iconic image of Robert Mapplethorpe to promote an exhibition of his work in Galashiels should have been stubbed out.

Community Councillor Drew Ketchen believes Self Portrait, which shows American photographer Mapplethorpe smoking and has been used across the world, encourages people to take up the habit.

The photo was used by Scottish Borders Council to advertise the display in Old Gala House, which ended on Sunday.

Speaking at Galashiels CC’s August meeting, Mr Ketchen said: “As a former smoker, I think it sends out the wrong message about health. It is telling people it is cool to smoke.”

Galashiels councillor John Mitchell said SBC could “perhaps” have chosen a better poster to promote the three-month exhibition, adding : “It is art and it exists. We can’t stop everything.It has been a very successful exhibition.”

An SBC spokesman said visitor numbers to Old Gala House had been up by 49 per cent midway through June, thanks to the showcase of original photographs by Mapplethorpe.

He added: “We have not had any complaints regarding the famous self portrait image of Robert Mapplethorpe taken in 1980. 
The response to the exhibition has been extremely positive.

“The image is known around the globe for advertising this specific artist and generally we feel our marketing campaign has worked well.

“As the exhibition only finished on Sunday we are yet to finalise figures for the total show, but overall this has been well received by the Borders community, with people asking for more exhibitions of this status.”

The late Robert Mapplethorpe was seen as a controversial photographer known for pushing the boundaries.

He hit the headlines in the late 1970s with his 
photograph’s of New York’s S & M scene, while his explicit 
homoerotic and nude images caused outrage within 
religious and conservative sectors of America.

Mapplethorpe was diagnosed with AIDS in 1986 but increased his workload before he died in 1989 at the age of just 42. Even after his death, he still proved controversial, including the confiscation of a Mapplethorpe text book by police from a University of Central England student in 1998 on the grounds of obscenity.

His legacy lives on, with the Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation promoting photography, and the fight against AIDS and HIV-related infection.