Black White + Gray, the documentary film about the mysterious curator, collector, and tastemaker Sam Wagstaff, is a sincere attempt at shedding light on one of the art world's most elusive personalities. James Crump's debut documentary interviews heavy hitters in the industry as well as members of society like Dominic Dunne, Patti Smith, and John Sarkovsky, to name a few, that paint a picture of a man who was pivotal in establishing photography as a credible art form while challenging the conventional tastes of the upper class.
The anecdotes create a complex picture of a man who, as one old gal pal described, was not queer...but fun. If the documentary tries to capture the heady days of the 1970's and 80's by exploring the symbiotic relationship between Wagstaff and Robert Mapplethorpe, most of the audience seemed to still be recovering from any one of Sam's Bowery loft parties; laughing occasionally, fascinated and enthralled the rest of the time. Crump does an excellent job of portraying how essential Wagstaff was to Mapplethorpe's aesthetic and career. They made a dynamic duo Dominic Dunne akins to the dandies of the 1890's. Pretty chic.
When asked what compelled Crump to make the film about the nearly forgotten tastemaker he responded, "Wagstaff was a really interesting person. He was under-sung as a collector and a person. He was also just larger than life. Really sexual, just interesting, charismatic, and was also someone who was compartmentalized, and wasn't easy to know." Judging by the crowds' reaction, and amount of ballots tossed into the buckets, we have a better chance of remembering the maverick than we did before.
For more HuffPost coverage of the 2007 Tribeca Film Festival, go here.