Robert Mapplethorpe - Photographs London Wednesday, May 18, 2016 | Phillips
  • Provenance

    Robert Miller Gallery, New York

  • Literature

    Robert Mapplethorpe: Ten by Ten, Schirmer/Mosel, 1988, pl. 28
    R. Marshall, ed., Robert Mapplethorpe, Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, 1988, p. 185
    M. Holborn, D. Levas, eds., Mapplethorpe, Jonathan Cape, 1992, p. 253
    M. Holborn, D. Levas, eds., Robert Mapplethorpe: Pistils, Jonathan Cape, 1996, pl. 109
    N. Spector, ed., Guggenheim Museum Collection A to Z, Guggenheim, 2001, p. 213
    Promiscuous Flowers: Robert Mapplethorpe and Nobuyoshi Araki, Kabushiki Kaisha Āto raifu, 2001, p. 65, pl. 42
    P. Martineau, B. Salvesen, Robert Mapplethorpe: The Photographs, Getty, 2016, p. 194, pl. 150
    M. Holborn, D. Levas, eds., Mapplethorpe Flora: The Complete Flowers, Phaidon, 2016, slipcase and p. 301

  • Catalogue Essay

    ‘Within the realm of light he masters black. Blacks to be lost in. Blacks balanced with shifts of light to form a kind of architecture. Blacks soften into pale graphite and serve as a Rothkoesque backdrop for the muscle of a curving stem.’
    Patti Smith

    Mapplethorpe’s first love was sculpture. ‘If I had been born one or two hundred years ago, I might have been a sculptor,’ he once claimed, ‘but photography is a very quick way to see, to make sculpture’. Whether capturing a body or a flower, he used the visual language of black-and-white photography to seek ‘perfection of form’ in his images. It is clear that he has achieved it in this image of a single calla lily.

    Aside from the gelatin silver edition of 10 + 2 AP, this image was realised as a platinum print with black borders in an edition of 2 and as two unique works. This exceedingly rare photograph was acquired by the present owner in the 1980s from the Robert Miller Gallery and is appearing at auction for the first time.

    Prints of this image have been acquired by the following institutions: Guggenheim Museum, New York; The Getty Museum/LACMA, Los Angeles; and National Gallery of Australia, Canberra.

    Phillips is a proud sponsor of the exhibition Robert Mapplethorpe: The Perfect Medium at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA), 20 March – 31 July, 2016. A companion exhibition is presented concurrently at the J. Paul Getty Museum.

  • 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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Calla Lily

Gelatin silver print.
Image: 48.6 x 48.8 cm (19 1/8 x 19 1/4 in.)
Sheet: 60.4 x 50.6 cm (23 3/4 x 19 7/8 in.)

Signed, dated and numbered 2/10 in ink in the margin; signed by the artist, titled, dated and numbered 2/10 in an unidentified hand, all in ink and copyright credit reproduction limitation stamp on the reverse of the flush-mount.

This work is number 2 from the edition of 10 + 2 AP. As of this writing, the other prints from the edition are all held in various collections.

£50,000 - 70,000 

Sold for £77,500

Contact Specialist
Genevieve Janvrin
Head of Photographs, Europe
+44 20 7318 4092


London Auction 19 May 2016