Robert Mapplethorpe - Photographs New York Wednesday, October 3, 2018 | Phillips

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  • Provenance

    Private Collection, Los Angeles

  • Literature

    Random House, Mapplethorpe Pistils, pp. 35, 37-39, 55, 57, 62-63, 69, 94-95
    teNeues, Mapplethorpe: The Complete Flowers, n.p.

  • Catalogue Essay

    Often overshadowed by the discourse surrounding his more confrontational imagery, Robert Mapplethorpe’s flower studies remain a crucial aspect of his oeuvre and artistic legacy. In 1978, Mapplethorpe chose thirteen of his best flower images for the Y Portfolio. This portfolio took the central place within his suite of three lettered portfolios: X Portfolio, which featured his controversial images of sadomasochistic sex; and Z Portfolio, of African-American male nude studies, including the notorious Man in Polyester Suit. The photographs in Y Portfolio, with their exquisitely captured floral subject matter, provide an interlude between the more provocative images of X and Z. Yet, Mapplethorpe viewed and treated his varying subjects the same. Throughout his career, he was fascinated with the convergence of formal beauty, transgression, pleasure, and the duality of masculinity and femininity. In Y Portfolio, the thirteen beautifully-rendered images of flowers encapsulate these fascinations. Regardless of his subject matter, Mapplethorpe composed his images with a classicist’s eye and a perfectionist’s attention to the craft of photography.

    Titles include:
    Tulips, N.Y.C., 1977; Iris's, N.Y.C., 1977; Amaryllis, Paris, 1977; Tuberose, N.Y.C., 1977; Buds (Lily), N.Y.C., 1977; Lily, N.Y.C., 1977; Rose, N.Y.C., 1977; Orchid, N.Y.C., 1977; Chrysanthemum, N.Y.C., 1977; Baby's Breath, N.Y.C., 1978; Kale, N.Y.C., 1978; Gardenia, N.Y.C., 1978; Carnation, N.Y.C., 1978

  • 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."

    View More Works


Y Portfolio

Washington D.C.: Harry Lunn; New York: Robert Miller; London: Robert Self, 1978. Thirteen selenium toned gelatin silver prints.
Each approximately 7 1/2 x 7 1/2 in. (19.1 x 19.1 cm)
Each signed, numbered 8/25 in pencil and sequentially blindstamped '1-13' on the mount. Colophon numbered '8' in an unidentified hand in ink, poem by Patti Smith, plate list and pink paper interleaving. Accompanied by a gray silk clamshell case with gilt title 'Y'. Number 8 from an edition of 25 plus 6 lettered artist's proofs.

$30,000 - 50,000 

Sold for $112,500

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New York Auction 4 October 2018