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  • Provenance

    Acquired directly from the artist

  • Catalogue Essay

    In the late 1970s, Robert Mapplethorpe was photographing some of the most iconic and controversial images of his career from Jim and Tom, Sausalito, 1977 to Self-Portrait, 1978. It is no wonder then, that his American Flag, 1979 would be similarly provocative, documenting a raised tattered flag, an act, which, while not illegal, was certain to incite debate. When Mapplethorpe returned to the subject eight years later, just two years before his death, his approach was noticeably more ambiguous. As we see in the present lot, while his interest in classical iconography remained, gone from Flag, 1987 was the controversial undertone that the world had come to expect of him. Instead, Mapplethorpe’s tone was that of a quiet self-reflection, motivated by the artist’s solemn awareness of his own imminent mortality. One cannot help but wonder if with Flag, 1987, Mapplethorpe finally created an image universal in its appeal.

    While the prints from the edition of 10 have a horizontal orientation, this variant from outside the edition is alternatively cropped in a square format.

  • 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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Flag

1987
Gelatin silver print, flush-mounted.
19 1/4 x 19 1/4 in. (48.9 x 48.9 cm).
Signed, dated and inscribed 'For Lloyd' in ink in the margin.

Estimate
$70,000 - 90,000 

Sold for $110,500

Photographs

9 April 2011
New York