BOSTON, JULY 9 -- Ten years after the film "Caligula" was seized by city vice detectives, Robert Mapplethorpe's controversial photographs will arrive next month with the impassioned backing of the Institute of Contemporary Art.
Far from being banned in Boston, Mapplethorpe's work will receive extra security, the director of the institute said today, to ensure that it is properly showcased in the city where Mapplethorpe died of AIDS a year ago.
The exhibit will also receive corporate sponsorship for the first time on the tour, from Phoenix Media Communications Group.
Despite threats of protest from a Catholic lay group, ICA Director David Ross said the museum wouldn't omit the seven sexually graphic photographs in the exhibit. The collection of 160 photographs, which includes still lifes, portraits and nudes, will be on exhibit from Aug. 1 to Oct 4.
"We promised him we would do what we could to make sure the exhibit was shown according to his wishes," said Ross. "Robert Mapplethorpe was a friend of mine and someone I knew for 15 years. We're showing this because we believe Robert Mapplethorpe was an important artist. His work spoke to the tenor of our times, as all good artists do."
To edit out the controversial works would be "egregious," Ross said. "He was an artist whose career deserved an entire retrospective."
Philip Lawler of the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights said the art institute can "count on some strong demonstration of outrage."
Lawler and former Boston mayor John Collins have called on Mayor Raymond Flynn to stop the exhibit. Flynn aides have said the mayor will not block the show.
"Caligula," a sexually graphic 1980 film about ancient Rome, was the last casualty of the legendary censorship that led to the phrase "banned in Boston." Since the last century, at least 16 books have been banned in Boston, according to the American Library Association. Casualties included works by Theodore Dreiser, Ernest Hemingway and Elizabeth Barrett Browning.
Controversy has trailed the Mapplethorpe exhibit in its tour around the country. Last month an Ohio judge ruled that an art gallery and its director must stand trial for displaying two Mapplethorpe photographs of nude or semi-nude children.
A county grand jury indicted the Contemporary Arts Center in Cincinnati and director Dennis Barrie on April 7, the day the exhibit opened.
Ross called the Cincinnati indictment a "very sad event. It's not a good day for museum directors when they're hauled off to court for doing what museum directors have been doing for years."
The Boston show concludes an 18-month tour that included stops in Philadelphia, Chicago, Washington, Hartford, Berkeley, Calif., and Cincinnati.