As the Belvedere Torso inspired Michelangelo, Michelangelo inspired Robert Mapplethorpe.The Galleria dell'Accademia in Florence, Italy, has never exhibited a contemporary artist in the revered museum that houses Michelangelo's 'David.' Until now.

Nearly 100 Mapplethorpe photographs -- with an emphasis on nudes -- join Michelangelo's 'David' and his other works permanently housed in the church-like Galleria. 'Robert Mapplethorpe: Perfection In Form' is on view until January 2010.

I have a soft spot for Mapplethorpe and adore his work. I've been a fan since seeing the infamous 1988 exhibition 'Robert Mapplethorpe: The Perfect Moment' in Boston. This was just before it went to Philadelphia where the 'X Portfolio' caused all of the hoo-ha with the NEA. The photos in question were small, and displayed in a wooden, glass covered case about waist high so that you had to lean over to see into it, the case unmarked. It felt like an accident to see them -- or more accurately, like an act of accidental voyeurism. Still, the NEA reaction shocked me, particularly because the obvious focus of the show were his breathtaking flowers, the monumental prints displayed on the walls.

It's not hard to draw parallels between the Michelangelo and Mapplethorpe nudes. Both artists were striving for poetry in form, executing their work with heartbreaking tenderness and precision. 'Perfection In Form' is an overdue tribute to Mapplethorpe's genius.

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