Robert Mapplethorpe - ULTIMATE Evening & Photographs Day Sales London Thursday, May 17, 2018 | Phillips

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  • Provenance

    Robert Miller Gallery, New York, 1988
    Christie’s, New York, Crossing America: Photographs from the Consolidated Freightways Collection, Part I, 7 April 2011, lot 293
    Private Collection, Europe

  • Exhibited

    Robert Mapplethorpe Retrospective, Museum of Contemporary Art, Sapporo, 24 August - 25 September 2002; Daimaru Museum, Tokyo, 17 - 29 October 2002; Daimaru Museum, Osaka, 30 January - 11 February, 2003, another

  • Literature

    Robert Mapplethorpe Retrospective, Sapporo, Japan: Museum of Contemporary Art, 2002, pl. 115

  • Catalogue Essay

    The decade in which American Flag, 1987 was made marked the height of Robert Mapplethorpe’s career as an artist. Often, his artistic legacy is discussed in terms of the explicit or taboo as evident in American Flag, 1977, which drew public outcry for its depiction of a tattered flag. Here, by contrast, Mapplethorpe captures the American emblem raised in the sky above a bed of clouds and against the sun’s glowing halo. In a counter-cultural twist, the flag is shown flying backwards as it was shot from behind. He depicts the subject in elegant black and white, an approach he had perfected throughout his career.

    When the image was taken, Mapplethorpe had been diagnosed with AIDS and had lost his mentor Sam Wagstaff to AIDS-related complications in January of the same year. In the wake of Wagstaff’s passing and confronted with his own mortality, Mapplethorpe’s photographs became more self-reflective. Dignified and somber with a hint of optimism, American Flag demonstrates his capacity for profound communication through restrained composition.

    In addition to the gelatin silver edition, American Flag, 1987 was realised in platinum on Belgian linen in an edition of 2 + 1AP.

  • 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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ULTIMATE Property from an Important European Collection


American Flag

Gelatin silver print, flush-mounted.
49 x 58.5 cm (19 1/4 x 23 in.)
Signed, dated by the artist, titled, numbered 2/10 in another 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 Los Angeles County Museum of Art/J. Paul Getty Museum hold another print from this edition.

£80,000 - 120,000 

Sold for £181,250

Contact Specialist
Genevieve Janvrin
Co-Head of Photographs, Europe
+33 1 53 71 77 87

Yuka Yamaji
Co-Head of Photographs, Europe
+44 20 7318 4098

ULTIMATE Evening & Photographs Day Sales

London Auction 18 May 2018