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Robert Mapplethorpe

Biographies
Robert Mapplethorpe

*  1946 New York
† 1989 Boston


Robert Mapplethorpe was born in 1946 as third of six children and spent a sheltered childhood on Long Island. After studying painting at the Pratt Institute in Brooklyn Mapplethorpe first turned to sculptural work before discovering photography. He initially made collages with old photographs, which he removed from magazines or books. This early interest documents the increasing influence of photography on art at that time, which Mapplethorpe admired in Andy Warhol's work. In 1970 he moved into the Chelsea Hotel together with his close friend Patti Smith. In 1972 he took the first own photographs with a Polaroid camera. His first Polaroids were self-portraits and portraits of his friends. Photography did not become the central medium of his producing until the middle of the 1970s. Large photo series of artists, celebrities, movie stars from the porn milieu as well as of members of the sado-masochistic scene came into existence. With this so-called 'brutalic chic' Mapplethorpe met the taste of the time in the 1980s. The conservatives were filled with indignation, the avant-garde celebrated the Catholic's work as art. His work was also enriched in the early 1980s by an added look on beauty in a classical sense, at that time his skilful nude photographs, sensual flower still lifes and artist portraits came into existence.In 1989 Mapplethorpe died from Aids. Robert Mapplethorpe's œuvre was intrinsically tied to the terms sex and excess, lust and dominance, which makes him one of the most discussed, but also most important photographers of our time. From the middle of the 1970s his works were exhibited in numerous one-man and group exhibitions, like the Documenta 6 (1977) et al. Shortly before his death caused by AIDS in 1988 the Whitney Museum in New York staged a large retrospective exhibition.