New York City may have understood and nurtured Robert Mapplethorpe, but outside it the 20th century photographer’s work received a much more mixed reaction.

Mapplethorpe saw the same beauty in NYC’s gay leather scene as the most delicate of flowers, presenting them both in meticulously crafted black-and-white photographs that sparked a debate over public funding for the arts in the ‘90s. “Look at the pictures,” barked former Sen. Jesse Helms, launching a culture war that still rages.

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Those words provided the title of a new documentary about the life and work of the 20th century photographer, Mapplethorpe: Look at the Pictures, airing April 4 on HBO. In conjunction with the film, the network is bringing a pop-up gallery of his work to 23rd Street between Fifth Avenue and Broadway.

Housed in two shipping containers, the gallery will present 24 of Mapplethorpe’s “more personal” works inside (he was known for his intimate nude portraits and meticulous recreations of fetish scenes), along with audio commentary from the photographer. Its outer walls will also serve as a canvas where another 29 of his photographs will be projected.

Mapplethorpe: Look at the Pictures gallery
March 18, 6-11 p.m.
March 19, 6-10 p.m.
23rd Street between Fifth Avenue and Broadway