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Robert Mapplethorpe

Updated: Feb 13, 2019


Artist 49

Robert Mapplethorpe Black and White Photography


Robert Mapplethorpe was an American photographer, known for his sensitive yet blunt treatment of controversial subject-matter in the large-scale, highly stylized black and white medium of photography.


His highly stylised black-and-white studio photography of the late New York is considered avant-garde.


His work featured an array of subjects, including celebrity portraits, male and female nudes, self-portraits and still-life images of flowers.



His most controversial work is that of the BDSM subculture in the late 1960s and early 1970s of New York City. The homoeroticism of this work fuelled a national debate over the public funding of controversial artwork.


Through his subjects, Mapplethorpe projected his ambiguous relationship with the human body and sexuality, mixing both male and female characteristics.



Nearly a year before his death, the ailing Mapplethorpe helped found the Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation, Inc. His vision for the Foundation was that it would be "the appropriate vehicle to protect his work, to advance his creative vision, and to promote the causes he cared about".

Since his death, the Foundation has also raised and donated millions of dollars to fund medical research in the fight against AIDS and HIV infection.


Mapplethorpe worked primarily in a studio, and almost exclusively in black and white, with the exception of some of his later work and his final exhibit "New Colors".



“Robert took areas of dark human consent and made them into art. He worked without apology, investing the homosexual with grandeur, masculinity, and enviable nobility.” - Patti Smith


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