Robert Mapplethorpe was born in 1946 as the third of six children and spent a comfortable childhood on Long Island. After studying painting at the Pratt Institute in Brooklyn and his first sculptures, Mapplethorpe turned to photography. At first, the artist created collages from old photographs, taken from magazines or books.
This early interest in photography reflects the increasing influence photography had on the art of the time, as admired by Robert Mapplethorpe in Andy Warhol’s works. In 1970 he moved to the Chelsea Hotel together with Patti Smith. In 1972 Mapplethorpe finally began to take his own photographs using a polaroid camera. His initial intention was to incorporate these photographs in his paintings.
Mapplethorpe’s first polaroids were self-portraits and protraits of his friends. Only in the mid 1970s does photography as an artistic medium move into the center of his works. He produced comprehensive series of photographs, showing artists, celebrities, porn stars and members of the SM-scene. With this so-called “brutalic chic”, Robert Mapplethorpe hit the prevailing trend of the 1980s. The conservatives were up in arms, while the Avant-garde celebrate Mapplethorpe’s work as art.
Furthermore, Mapplethorpe’s works from the early 1980s were enriched by a closer look at classical beauty, during this time he created his artistic nude photographs, sensual flower still lives and portraits of artists.
Robert Mapplethorpe died of Aids in 1989. The artist’s oeuvre is inextricably linked with the terms sex and excess, lust and dominance, making him one of the most controversial and one of the greatest photographers of our time.
Since the mid 1970s Robert Mapplethorpe’s work has been shown at numerous solo and group exhibitions, including “documenta 6” in 1977. In 1988, shortly before he died of Aids, the New York Whitney Museum hosted a Robert Mapplethorpe retrospective.