Robert Mapplethorpe Biography, Life, Interesting Facts
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Early Years and Education
Robert Mapplethorpe was born 4th November 1946, to Harry and Joan Mapplethorpe. He was born in Floral Park, Queens, New York, in the United States. Mapplethorpe was one of six children, with a father who was an electrical engineer.
Mapplethorpe studied graphic arts at the Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, but he left school before graduating with his degree.
He moved in with his best friend, Patti Smith, in 1967. They lived together until 1972, and the pair developed their art, with Smith being the primary breadwinner to support them.
Robert Mapplethorpe started with a Polaroid camera in the late 1960s. He met art curator, Sam Wagstaff, in 1972, and the two would become companions for the rest of their lives. He changed to a Hasselblad camera during the 1970s, and his subjects were friends from the artistic scene.
Mapplethorpe was established by the 1980s, and his subjects during this period were flowers and male and female nudes. He still photographed celebrities and artists, but they were now formal portraits rather than regular photographs. Some of his subjects included Richard Gere, Grace Jones, and Joan Armatrading.
By this time, Robert Mapplethorpe owned an apartment in Manhattan, as well as a studio for his work. Mapplethorpe’s work was mostly in black and white, and this was one of his trademark features. Another feature of his work that he became known for was the erotic photography that he produced. Some thought it art; others thought it was pornography.
He undertook a solo exhibition tour in 1989, called, The Perfect Moment. The contents of the exhibit were brought into question for their explicit nature, and the show was eventually cancelled. He also drew a lot of criticism for his book and exhibition in 1986 called, Black Males, where it was deemed black males were being sexualized and exploited in the book.
Between 1983 and 2016, there have been over 25 books published, either by Mapplethorpe or about him, and he undertook more than 13 solo exhibitions. Since his death, there have been over 30 exhibitions of his work around the world.
Robert Mapplethorpe died on 9th March 1989, from HIV/AIDS.
In 1988, Mapplethorpe established the Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation, Inc. He saw the Foundation as being a protector of his estate, and that it would help with causes close to his heart. The Foundation is doing whatever Mapplethorpe intended. It continues to promote his work worldwide, and it has donated millions of dollars to AIDS and HIV research.
Christiana Carteaux Bannister