The Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation announced last week that it will donate 20 percent of its annual gross revenue to the American Foundation for AIDS Research (AmFAR) for the next three years. The total donation could be as high as $1 million a year, according to Mapplethorpe Foundation projections.

Last year it grossed approximately $10 million, but Mapplethorpe Foundation President Michael Stout said that amount was inflated due to an estate sale that brought in "an enormous amount of money."

The Mapplethorpe Foundation pledge, which guarantees a donation of at least $250,000 a year, is the largest AmFAR has received from a single source, according to Chairman Joel Weisman. "I think in life Mapplethorpe made a great contribution to photography, and his contribution in death was to make sure that AIDS research went on and that he provided for funding of programs that he himself believed in," he said.

Mapplethorpe, who died of complications from AIDS in 1989, set up the foundation a year before his death with the goal of "establishing, improving or expanding museums that exhibit photographic art, as well as funding efforts to end the AIDS epidemic."

Most of the foundation's revenue comes from the sale of Mapplethorpe prints, although several book contracts have also contributed substantial amounts. This week Little, Brown will publish "Flowers," a collection of Mapplethorpe's color photographs.

"Some of Robert's pictures sell for 60, 80, 100 thousand dollars," said Stout. "But basically the bulk of his work was black-and-white silver gelatin prints, which are certainly in the 12- to 25-thousand-dollar range. And people do buy Mapplethorpe."

While Stout expects prices for the photographs to level off, he thinks the recent acquittal of Cincinnati's Contemporary Arts Center and its director -- who had been charged with violating obscenity laws for exhibiting several pictures in Mapplethorpe's "X Portfolio" as part of a retrospective -- will help increase sales volume. "I think what happened is it made Mapplethorpe an international name," said Stout. "The prices went up when he died, but what the Cincinnati trial and National Endowment for the Arts controversy does is broaden the collecting base."

Stout said Mapplethorpe chose to create a "sort of partnership" with AmFAR because the photographer felt the organization consisted of "a lot of great, young, smart people who were dedicated" to the cause of stopping the AIDS epidemic.

"We're very appreciative to the board of the Mapplethorpe Foundation for recognizing that AmFAR has done an important job in the non-profit AIDS research and education field," said Weisman.

Part of the agreement stipulates that AmFAR assist the foundation in handling other requests from medical organizations for donations and grants.

"He was kind of a philanthropist," said Stout of Mapplethorpe. "He gave all of his money to charity, to art museums and medical facilities. So it's all good news for everyone involved. Except for poor Robert is dead. And AIDS still isn't curable."

Rockville's 'New' Arts Place

Jack Rasmussen wants people to know that good art and good artists exist far from the tony town-house galleries around Dupont Circle. "We have two galleries {in the new location}, one big and beautiful, the kind any gallery in D.C. would kill for," said Rasmussen, director of the Rockville Arts Place, which held a gala opening at its new location on East Middle Lane on Saturday night. "It's got 12-foot ceilings. It's a state-of-the-art facility."

Arts Place -- which features studio space for seven artists, classrooms, exhibition spaces and administrative offices -- moved into its newly renovated building after a year at Rockville Mall. This weekend's opening featured a fashion show of wearable works by such artists as Sam Gilliam and Tom Green. The clothes art will be on display as part of the space's first exhibition, titled "Mixing It Up: Artists' Designs and Fashions."

Arts Place's director admits most people don't think of Rockville as an artistic mecca, but he's confident that will change. "When the WPA opened, people thought nobody would go downtown to see contemporary art. But eventually, with the addition of the subway, that changed," said Rasmussen, who was assistant director of the Washington Project for the Arts when it opened in 1975 at its former location at 12th and G streets NW. "The WPA could only dream of the support we've gotten from Rockville."

The cost of the renovation, which Rasmussen estimated will total $1 million when the planned 8,000-square-foot addition is completed, was shared by the city, a Maryland state bond bill, and Kimmel Properties, which provided the rent-free space.

"The city was looking at it in terms of an attraction in downtown Rockville," said Rockville Mayor Douglas Duncan. "I think when word gets around about the facility, we'll have a lot of visitors to the area."