This exhibition explores the life, work and legacy of Robert Mapplethorpe (1946–1989), presenting the artist’s best-known photographs alongside work that has never been published. The exhibition covers Mapplethorpe’s origins in the downtown New York scene in the 1970s, through his rise to fame as a photographer in the early 1980s, to his centrality in the so-called Culture Wars in 1989, the year of his death. It draws on the acquisition of The Robert Mapplethorpe Archive by the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA), the J. Paul Getty Museum, and the Getty Research Institute. The exhibition is conceived in two parts to reflect this collaboration and will be presented concurrently at LACMA and the Getty Museum before traveling to two international venues.
The Getty Museum’s installation highlights Mapplethorpe’s controlled studio practice and his fascination with classical form and the fine photographic print. More than 120 works covering his classically proportioned nudes, insightful portraits and self-portraits, elegant floral still lifes, as well as erotic photographs of the gay S&M community, are distributed thematically and chronologically throughout the galleries, with an emphasis on the Apollonian aspects of the artist’s personality. Materials from the artist’s archive at the Getty Research Institute are included to contextualize the photographs in both presentations.
The exhibition is also on view at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts (August 2016–January 2017) and Art Gallery of New South Wales (September–November 2017).
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