Controversial Mapplethorpe Photograph “Man In Polyester Suit” Just Sold For $478,000 At Auction

Oct 10, 2015

Tiffany Mueller

Tiffany Mueller is a photographer and content strategist based in Hawi, Hawaii. Her work has been shared by top publications like The New York Times, Adobe, and others.

Controversial Mapplethorpe Photograph “Man In Polyester Suit” Just Sold For $478,000 At Auction

Oct 10, 2015

Tiffany Mueller

Tiffany Mueller is a photographer and content strategist based in Hawi, Hawaii. Her work has been shared by top publications like The New York Times, Adobe, and others.

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16270194743_838ed1d4f5_kThe notorious photograph, Man In A Polyester Suit, taken in 1980 by photographer Robert Mapplethorpe, sold at a Sotheby’s (New York) auction on Wednesday for $478,000. The sale makes the photograph one of the most expenisve photos ever sold, though it’s still quite a ways off from list topper, Rhein II which sold for a whopping $4.3M.

As some of you may recall, Man In A Polyester Suit–a NSFW photo which shows a man wearing a three piece suit with his penis out has had a troubled history. In 1989, Cincinnati’s Contemporary Arts Center put the image on exhibition, which resulted in public outrage and criminal obscenity charges against the Center’s director. He was acquitted in 1990.

In 1992 the image was sold for $9,900, and largely fell out of the public spotlight. That is until this week, when the photograph made it’s way to Sotheby’s.  The selling price of the photograph exceeded auction officials estimations of an amount between $250,000 and $350,000. The print sold on Wednesday was part of a 15-print edition, and the sale marks the first time in 23 years that a photo from this edition was offered for sale.

Man In A Polyester Suit is scheduled to make a public appearance in 2016 at The Los Angeles County Muesum of Art and the J Paul Getty Museum, as part of a retrospective on the photographer and his work.

If you’re unfamiliar with the photo, a quick Google search can remedy that. While it is most definitely is NSFW, I personally don’t feel as though it’s as graphic as all it’s controversy makes it seem. That being said, the 1980’s was a different time. It will be interesting to see the how differently the public reacts to next years retrospective.

[ via New York Times  | Lead Photo by Thomas Backa ]

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Tiffany Mueller

Tiffany Mueller

Tiffany Mueller is a photographer and content strategist based in Hawi, Hawaii. Her work has been shared by top publications like The New York Times, Adobe, and others.

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2 responses to “Controversial Mapplethorpe Photograph “Man In Polyester Suit” Just Sold For $478,000 At Auction”

  1. TheInconvenientRuth Avatar
    TheInconvenientRuth

    What a load of….. Photographing women naked with everything on display is “fine art”, but if a man’s willy is shown, it is “obscene and vulgar”.. In Game of Thrones, women walk around naked happily, but no penisis, yet in Spartacus we see loads of penises, but the women wear crotch pieces to hide their bits… It’s all becoming rather silly…

    1. Ben IncaHutz Avatar
      Ben IncaHutz

      Massive black penises scare people in Ohio.