As part of our celebration of LGBT History month, let’s take a look at the life and career of photographer Robert Mapplethorpe.
4 November 1946
9 March 1989, aged 42
Mapplethorpe grew up in Queens in New York City. He studied Graphic Arts in Brooklyn.
In 1967, Mapplethorpe moved in to live with artist and singer Patti Smith. It was around this time that he began taking photographs.
Mapplethorpe began by photographing his friends and acquaintances in New York City.
In the late 70s, Mapplethorpe began to explore the fetish scene. At that time, he was in a relationship with Jack Fritscher – the editor of fetish magazine Drummer. They were well known at fetish club Mineshaft.
By the 1980s, Mapplethorpe’s subject matter had moved on to focus on statuesque male and female nudes, delicate flower still lifes, and highly formal portraits of artists and celebrities. Mapplethorpe worked primarily in a studio, and almost exclusively in black and white
In the summer of 1989, Mapplethorpe’s travelling solo exhibit – The Perfect Moment – brought national attention to the issues of public funding for the arts, as well as questions of censorship and the obscene. A gallery in Washington D.C. decided not to host the exhibition due to the controversial subject matter of the photographs. The issue became a matter of public debate and was raised in Congress. The controversy heightened Mapplethorpe’s reputation and increased the value of his work.
View this post on Instagram
Robert Mapplethorpe at MAI 36 GALERIE Zurich Jan 18 through Mar 02, 2019 Mai 36 Galerie is delighted to present the fifth solo exhibition of works by American photographer Robert Mapplethorpe. Mapplethorpe’s classically inspired image of the human body was often adopted by commercial photography. He looked to the iconography of Classical Antiquity and the Renaissance, and developed his own distinctive photographic style of radically pared-down composition. Even the early polaroids he created after his Fine Art studies at the Pratt Institute foreshadow his later motifs – albeit in color and more directly. With the shift to classic black-and-white photography, Mapplethorpe refined his technique and compositional style, going into more detail, cropping more closely, and creating aesthetically staged images in black-and-white. The exhibition at Mai 36 Galerie shows works from 1976 to 1988 and includes the themes of male / female / SM / flowers / still life. The selection shows Robert Mapplethorpe as an artist firmly anchored in his time, yet whose works remain topical to this day. His photographs challenge us, while at the same time presenting images of classical beauty. Mai 36 Galerie has been representing the work of Robert Mapplethorpe since 1988. Currently, the Museo Madre in Naples is showing Robert Mapplethorpe – Coreografia per una mostra and from January 2019 the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York is hosting a major retrospective of his work. A full-length feature film about Mapplethorpe’s life and work, addressing the parallels between his art and his sexuality, is due for release later in the year.