Robert Mapplethorpe - Photographs New York Wednesday, October 12, 2022 | Phillips

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  • From his earliest self-portrait in the 1960s to his last in 1988, Robert Mapplethorpe’s images of himself serve as a guiding reference throughout his career, illustrating his evolution as both photographer and subject. In an essay on his self-portraiture, Carol Squiers discusses the fractured nature of Mapplethorpe’s early images as indicative of his difficult journey to identifying as a gay man. As his personal and professional lives developed in tandem throughout the 1970s, so did his self-portraits which began to show him boldly and unapologetically embracing his sexuality.

    The present image is one of several he took in 1980. Two years after publishing his X Portfolio of S & M images, this was the year that found him firmly established within the international art world, with solo exhibitions in Amsterdam, Apeldoorn (Netherlands), Boston, Brussels, Chicago, and San Francisco. With his impeccably styled hair and worn leather jacket, Mapplethorpe is cool and confident, even a little defiant. The formal qualities of this perfectly-lit studio portrait had become hallmarks of his work by this stage of his career. Gone is the uncertainty and desire to shock in his earlier work. His demeanor is unshaken by the public reception (and, at times, rejection) of his work and lifestyle. He is a fully formed being, both as photographer and subject; a man at the height of his awakening, oblivious to the impending mortality that will define the self-portraits that follow.
    "Mapplethorpe’s search for his sexual and artistic identity was conducted with an unsparing urgency across the relatively short span of his creative life. Much of that quest became concentrated in his self-portraits, where he reshaped and interrogated his own visage with increasing self-knowledge."
    —Carol Squiers

    • Literature

      Martineau & Salvesen, Robert Mapplethorpe: The Photographs, n.p.

    • 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.
14 x 14 in. (35.6 x 35.6 cm)
Signed and dated in ink within a copyright credit reproduction limitation stamp on the reverse of the flush-mount; printed title, date and number 2/10 on a gallery label affixed to the frame backing.

Full Cataloguing

$100,000 - 150,000 

Sold for $144,900

Contact Specialist

Sarah Krueger
Head of Department, Photographs, New York

Vanessa Hallett
Worldwide Head of Photographs and Deputy Chairwoman, Americas


New York Auction 12 October 2022