ROBERT MAPPLETHORPE (b. 1946, Queens, New York) became infamous for his transgressive black-and-white photographs, which often celebrated the artist’s queer community. During the 1970s and ’80s, he photographed himself and his New York City coterie, which included musicians such as Patti Smith (his one-time Chelsea Hotel roommate), artists, socialites, porn stars, and members of the gay S&M underground. While his content could be shocking, Mapplethorpe was also highly attuned to his medium’s formal, more traditional elements; his pictures are deeply concerned with composition, color, texture, balance, and beauty. This is particularly evident in his later studio photography, which features nudes, flowers, and formal portraits. After the artist’s death from AIDS-related illness in 1989, Mapplethorpe’s work precipitated national controversy when it was included in “The Perfect Moment,” a traveling exhibition funded by the National Endowment for the Arts. Since then, his legacy has been cemented with exhibitions at the Guggenheim Museum, Kunsthal Rotterdam, Tate Modern, and Musée Rodin.
- Victoria & Albert Museum, London
- Whitney Museum of Modern Art, New York
- National Portrait Gallery, London
- Museum of Modern Art, New York