Robert Mapplethorpe - Photographs Evening Sale New York Wednesday, April 1, 2015 | Phillips
  • Provenance

    James Danziger Gallery, New York

  • Catalogue Essay

    “My whole point is to transcend the subject. …Go beyond the subject somehow, so that the composition, the lighting, all around, reaches a certain point of perfection. That’s what I’m doing." -Robert Mapplethorpe

    In discussing his childhood in suburban America, Robert Mapplethorpe recalled: “It was a very safe environment and it was a good place to come from in that it was a good place to leave”. It is this very repudiation of the status quo that has led the photographer to push boundaries with his art, producing provocative and often controversial works throughout his impressive career. Mapplethorpe’s photographs run the gamut of excessively explicit, such as the images of New York’s underground S& M scene, to his more reserved portraiture of fellow artists such as Debbie Harry and Patti Smith, as well as his introspective self-portraits and still-life images incorporating classical iconography.

    In the current lot, Flag, 1987, the artist incorporates all of the aforementioned elements into a single arrangement. Mapplethorpe’s first photograph of the American flag was shot in 1977, showing a torn and tattered flag hanging before the sun. That image, overtly subversive in its countercultural depiction of this cornerstone of American iconography, stands in stark contrast to Flag, 1987, in the current lot. Here, Mapplethorpe’s tone has shifted from one of shock, which defined much of his career, to one of quiet self-reflection, perhaps motivated by a solemn awareness of his own imminent mortality. Taken just two years before his death, Mapplethorpe created an image that at first glance appears pleasant and deferent, yet hints at Mapplethorpe’s rebellious nature by showing the flag flying backwards. Three decades later, Flag stands tall as a beautiful and honorable memento of a renowned legendary photographer.

  • Artist Biography

    Robert Mapplethorpe

    American • 1946 - 1989

    After studying drawing, painting and sculpture at the Pratt Institute in the 1960s, Robert Mapplethorpe began experimenting with photography while living in the notorious Chelsea Hotel with Patti Smith. Beginning with Polaroids, he soon moved on to a Hasselblad medium-format camera, which he used to explore aspects of life often only seen behind closed doors.

    By the 1980s Mapplethorpe's focus was predominantly in the studio, shooting portraits, flowers and nudes. His depiction of the human form in formal compositions reflects his love of classical sculpture and his groundbreaking marriage of those aesthetics with often challenging subject matter. Mapplethorpe's style is present regardless of subject matter — from erotic nudes to self-portraits and flowers — as he ceaselessly strove for what he called "perfection of form."

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Gelatin silver print.
19 x 23 in. (48.3 x 58.4 cm)
Signed and dated by Michael Ward Stout, Executor, in ink, titled, dated and numbered AP 1/2 in an unidentified hand in ink, copyright credit reproduction limitation and signature stamps on the reverse of the flush-mount. One from an edition of 10 plus 2 artist's proofs.

$80,000 - 120,000 

Sold for $87,500

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Shlomi Rabi
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Photographs Evening Sale

New York 1 April 2015 6pm