Robert Mapplethorpe - Photographs New York Tuesday, October 1, 2019 | Phillips

Create your first list.

Select an existing list or create a new list to share and manage lots you follow.

  • Provenance

    Robert Miller Gallery, New York
    Texas Gallery, Houston

  • Literature

    Mapplethorpe and Smith, Robert Mapplethorpe, pl. 7, this print

  • Catalogue Essay

    In the 1980s, Robert Mapplethorpe expanded his repertoire of photographic media to include platinum, a process that delivered a wider tonal range than silver and was especially well-suited to the nuanced gradations of his flower studies. In an effort to move further beyond the limits of conventional photography, he began platinum-printing on linen, producing work that had a distinctive tactile quality in-keeping with his desire to make an image ‘no longer a photograph first, but firstly a statement that happens to be a photograph.’

    Mapplethorpe’s preoccupation with the object quality of his work extends to the very beginning of his career. His early collages and sculptural work, encased within custom frames, show the level of care he took in the presentation of his work, its appearance on the wall, and the experience it would create for the viewer. This sensitivity to presentation persisted throughout his career, and flowered more fully in his later years with the production of his platinum prints on linen. In the photograph offered here, Mapplethorpe has placed his flower study within the upper left quadrant of a square black field of stretched fabric. The photograph’s alternating light and dark bands are echoed by the ribbed texture of the fabric, carefully selected by Mapplethorpe to subtly reinforce the rhythm and pattern of light and shadow throughout the work. He has enclosed the whole within a handsome black frame. Lily showcases Mapplethorpe’s skill as a photographer and his ability to present his images as elegant and immersive physical objects.

    The technical challenges of making images in this hybrid medium were considerable, and this, combined with Mapplethorpe’s high standards for print quality, assured that a comparatively small number of these works were ultimately released. Lily is a prime example from this period, and is unique.

  • 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



Unique composition of one platinum print on linen canvas with fabric panel, all within the artist designed frame.
Platinum print 19 3/4 x 19 3/4 in. (50.2 x 50.2 cm)
Overall 40 x 40 in. (101.6 x 101.6 cm)
Framed 45 x 45 in. (114.3 x 114.3 cm)

$200,000 - 300,000 

Contact Specialist

Sarah Krueger
Head of Department, Photographs

Vanessa Hallett
Worldwide Head of Photographs and Deputy Chairwoman, Americas

General Enquiries
+1 212 940 1245


New York Auction 1 October 2019