These days we're quite used to hearing about some squeaky-clean celebrity's hidden prurient lifestyle. However, Robert Mapplethorpe never hid his S&M lifestyle, he used it as the subject of much of his work, and so it's wonderfully ironic to discover that Mapplethorpe's 'hidden' past was in a long term relationship with a Yale-educated, ex-Madison Ave, uptown man like Sam Wagstaff.
This excellent documentary focusses primarily on Wagstaff's significant legacy to the Art world and tries to reclaim his place as one of the most important collector/curators of his time. Aided and encouraged by Mapplethorpe and Patti Smith, Wagstaff started collecting photographs long before the major art institutions took the form seriously and became pivotal in changing attitudes towards vernacular photography.
Although Wagstaff appears to have lived a double-life, moneyed socialite by day and S&M acolyte by night, the film never delves too deeply into the S&M underworld he and Mapplethorpe knew. Admittedly it's probably unnecessary to document that side of their relationship since Mapplethorpe did it so well already but it's an interesting dichotomy that goes slightly under-explored. Nonetheless, the film's a fascinating and unexpected insight into a life and time some of us might have thought we already knew.