Photographer Robert Mapplethorpe (American, 1946–1989) is celebrated for his images of still lifes, and for his dramatic, carefully posed portraits of friends and celebrities, as well as his portrayals of sadomasochist circles and other unconventional members of society. Born in Queens, NY, Mapplethorpe attended classes at Parsons School of Design while he was a teenager, working mostly with collage and mixed media. There he met fellow artist and musician Patti Smith, who posed in some of his earliest portraits of famous figures, and developed his love of photography as a medium separate from his collages.

In the late 1960s he worked as a photographer for Andy Warhol's Interview magazine. Mapplethorpe began taking Polaroids of his family, friends, and public personalities regularly, and in the late 1970s, focused primarily on intimate, sexually charged images, which is what brought Mapplethorpe significant critical attention. Mapplethorpe later did a series on female bodybuilder Lisa Lyons, as well as images of dramatic, classical nudes, carefully composed still lifes, and engaging portraits. In 1986, he was diagnosed with AIDS, and over the next three years, continued to photograph fervently. He also established the Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation, dedicated to supporting photography and AIDS research. He had his first major American retrospective at the Whitney Museum of American Art in 1988, just a year before his death.

Mapplethorpe’s work has been exhibited at documenta in Kassel, the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York, the Corcoran Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., the Centre Pompidou in Paris, the Deutsche Guggenheim in Berlin, and the Tate Modern in London, among many other institutions.

Timeline

1946
Born in Floral Park, Queens, NY
1967
Befriended artist, poet, and musician Patti Smith
1969
Staff photographer for Andy Warhol’s Interview magazine
Account executive with Andy Warhol’s Factory
1963–1970
BFA in Painting & Sculpture from the Pratt Institute, Brooklyn, New York
1971
Became aquainted with John McKendry, Curator of Prints and Photography at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, NY
1972
Became aquainted with Sam Wagstaff
1989
Died in 1989, Boston, MA

Exhibitions

2012–2013
In Focus: Robert Mapplethorpe, J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, CA, USA (solo)
Robert Mapplethorpe: XYZ, LACMA Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Los Angeles, CA, USA (solo)
2012
Körper als Protest, Albertina, Vienna, Austria
Mapplethorpe: Pure, Mai 36 Galerie, Zurich, Switzerland (solo)
Robert Mapplethorpe: XYZ, Los Angeles county Museum of Art, Los Angeles, CA (solo)
Robert Mapplethorpe: Artist Rooms, Dunoon Burgh Hall, Dunoon, United Kingdom (solo)
Robert Mapplethorpe, Ludwig Museum, Budapest, Hungary (solo)
In Focus: Robert Mapplethorpe, J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, CA (solo)
Naked Before the Camera, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, NY
Mapplethorpe & Michael Sayles, Xavier Laboulbenne, Berlin, Germany
2011
50 Americans, Sean Kelly Gallery, New York, NY (solo)
Blossoming, Curated by Klaus Kertess, Texas Gallery, Houston, TX (solo)
Robert Mapplethorpe, C/O Berlin, Berlin, Germany (solo)
Robert Mapplethorpe: Night Work, Curated by Scissor Sisters, Alison Jacques Gallery, London, England (solo)
Robert Mapplethorpe – Desired, Galeri Nev, Istanbul, Turkey (solo)
Robert Mapplethorpe: Portraits, San Jose Museum of Art, CA, USA (solo)
Retrospektive, c/o berlin, Berlin (solo)
Robert Mapplethorpe: Friends and Acquaintances, Galerie Thomas Schulte,Berlin, Germany
Robert Mapplethorpe: Night Work, curated by Scissor Sisters, Alison Jacques Gallery, London, England
Facing the Lens: Portraits of Photographers, Minneapolis Institute of Arts,Minneapolis, Minnasota
Mannerism and Modernism: The Kasper Collection of Drawings and Photographs, The Morgan Library, New York, NY
Robert Mapplethorpe, Fondazione FORMA per la Fotografía, Milan, Italy (solo)
Robert Mapplethorpe, Onassis Cultural Centre, Athens, Greece (solo)
Robert Mapplethorpe, i8 Gallery, Reykjavik, Iceland (solo)Robert Mapplethorpe, Galerie Stefan Röpke, Cologne, Germany (solo)
HIDE/SEEK: Difference and Desire in American Portraiture, Brooklyn Museum, Brooklyn, NY
The Masque and the Mirror, Leila Heller Gallery, New York, NY
Off the Wall, Fundação Serralves, Porto, Portugal
2010
Man Ray: Mapplethorpe, Fondazione Marconi, Milan, Italy
Robert Mapplethorpe NRW-Forum Kunst und Wirtschaft, Dusseldorf, Germany (solo)
Robert Mapplethorpe: Perfection in Form, Galleria dell'Accademia, Florence, Italy
Robert Mapplethorpe: A Season in Hell, Alison Jacques Gallery, London, UK
Polaroids, Henry Art Gallery, Seattle, WA
Robert Mapplethorpe, Photography with Sculpture, Towner Museum, Eastbourne, UK
25 Years / 25 Works, Wessel + O’Connor Fine Arts, Lambertville, NJ
Robert Mapplethorpe, Olga Korper Gallery, Toronto, Canada (solo)
Horses, Baldwin Gallery, Aspen, CO (solo)
Robert Mapplethorpe, Towner Art Gallery, Eastbourne, United Kingdom.(solo)
Robert Mapplethorpe, Museo de Arte Latinoamerican de Buenos Aires, Buenos Aires, Argentina (solo)
Robert Mapplethorpe, San Jose Museum of Art, San Jose, CA(solo)
Robert Mapplethorpe: Perfection in Form, Museu d’Arte della Citta di Lugano, Lugano, Switzerland. (solo)
Robert Mapplethorpe, Gallery Gio Marconi, Milan, Italy (solo)
Robert Mapplethorpe, NRW-Forum, Düsseldorf, Germany (solo)
Robert Mapplethorpe: Perfection in Form, Museo d’Arte, Lugano, Italy (solo)
Off the Wall: Part 2: Seven Works by Trisha Brown, Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, NY
Decadence Now! Visions of Excess, Galerie Rudolfinum, Prague, Czech Republic
The Original Copy: Photography of Sculpture, 1839 to Today, The Museum of Modern Art, New York, NY
Incognito: The Hidden Self Portrait, Yancey Richardson, New York, NY
Hunt & Chase. Salomon Contemporary, East Hampton, NY
Nudes: Positions of Nude Art in Photography, Camera Work, Charlottenburg, Germany
Summer 2010, Weinstein Gallery, Minneapolis, Minnesota
The Fifth Genre: Considering Contemporary Still Life, Galerie Lelong, New York, NY
All That Is Solid Melts Into Air: The Social at the Berardo Collection, Museu Colecção Berardo, Lisbon, Portugal
The Visible Vagina, David Nolan Gallery and Francis Naumann Gallery, New York, NY
Alice Neel: Painted Truths, Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, TX
2009
The Perfection in Form, Galleria dell’Accademia, Florence, Italy (solo)
TR3 Gallery and National Gallery, Ljubljana, Slovenia (solo)
Portraits: Robert Mapplethorpe, Center for Creative Photography, Tucson, AZ (solo)
Polaroids: Mapplethorpe, Modern Art, Oxford, UK (solo)
Robert Mapplethorpe, CAC Centro de Arte Contemporáneo de Málaga, Málaga, Spain (solo)
Polaroids: Mapplethorpe, Henry Art Gallery, Seattle, WA (solo)
Diana and Actaeon: The Forbidden Glimpse at the Naked Body, Museum kunst palast, Düsseldorf, Germany
Polaroids and Silver Prints by Robert Mapplethorpe, Galerie Stefan Ropke,Cologne, Germany
Robert Mapplethorpe: A Season in Hell, Alison Jacques Gallery, London, England
Robert Mapplethorpe, Galeria Fortes Vilaça, São Paulo, Brazil
Robert Mapplethorpe, Es Baluard Museu d’Art Modern I Contemporani de Palma, Mallorca, Spain
Robert Mapplethorpe: Women, Weinstein Gallery, San Francisco, CA
Robert Mapplethorpe, Black, White and Silver, Marc Selwyn Fine Art, Los Angeles, CA
Robert Mapplethorpe, Centro de Arte Contemporáneo Malaga, Malaga, Spain
Robert Mapplethorpe, TR3 Gallery and National Gallery, Ljubljana, Slovenia
Sterling Ruby / Robert Mapplethorpe, Xavier Hufkens Gallery, Brussels, Belgium
Deadline, Musee d’Art Moderne, Paris, France
The Portrait. Photography as a Stage: From Robert Mapplethorpe to Nan Goldin,Kunsthalle Wien, Wien, Germany
Self-Portraits, Skarstedt Gallery, New York, NY
Big Shots: Andy Warhol, Celebrity Culture, and the 1980s, Spencer Museum of Art, Lawrence, KS
The Figure and Dr. Freud, Haunch of Venison, New York, NY
In a Room anything can Happen, CCS Bard, Annandale-on-Hudson, New York
Artists Rooms, The collection of Anthony d’Offay, UK traveling exhibition
Sh(OUT): Contemporary Art and Human Rights, Glasgow Museums, Gallery of Modern Art, Glasgow, Scotland
Everywhere: LGBTQ Politics in Art, Centro Galego de Arte Contemporanea,Santiago de Compostela, Spain
2008
Second Thoughts, The Center for Curatorial Studies at Bard College, Annandale-on-Hudson, NY
Polaroids: Mapplethorpe, Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, NY (solo)
Lisa, Milton, Thomas & Ken, Galerie Thaddaeus Ropac, Paris, France (solo)
Robert Mapplethorpe - Works 1975-1988, Mai 36 Galerie, Zurich, Switzerland (solo)
Fotografien aus der Sammlung agnès b., Berlin, Germany
FEMALE TROUBLE, Pinakothek der Moderne, Munich, Germany
Street & Studio, Tate Modern, London, UK
Punk: No One is Innocent, Kunsthalle Wien, Austria
Photography on Photography: Reflections on the Medium since 1960, Metropolitan Museum, New York, NY
Nina in Position, Artists Space, New York, NY
Robert Mapplethorpe: Certain People, Sean Kelly Gallery, New York (solo)
Robert Mapplethorpe, Olga Korper Gallery, Toronto, Canada (solo)
Robert Mapplethorpe: 50 New York Artists and Other Portraits, Baldwin Gallery, Aspen, CO (solo)
The Interior: Contemporary Photographic Views, Weinstein Gallery, Minneapolis, MN
Cross Roads/ Rock my Religion, DA2 Domus Artium 02, Salamanca, Spain
Modern Photographs: The Machine, The Body and The City, selections from the Charles Cowles Collection, Parrish Art Museum, Hamptons, New York
The ICA Auction Exhibition, Insitute of Contemporary Arts, London, England
Art Masters, Kempinski Grand Hotel des Bains St. Moritz, Monte Carlo
Main Space: Nina In Position, Artists Space, New York, NY
2007
Into Me / Out of Me, KW - Kunstwerke Berlin, Berlin, Germany and Museo d´Arte Contemporanea, Rome, Italy
Family Pictures, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, NY
The Heartbeat of Fashion, Deichtorhallen Hamburg, Hamburg, Germany
Das achte Feld / The eight square, Museum Ludwig Köln, Cologne, Germany
Women, Galerie Stefan Röpke, Colgne, Germany
Martin Maloney, Robert Mapplethorpe, Jack Pierson, Galerie Xavier Hufkens, Brussels, Belgium
Family Pictures, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, NY
Exhibitionism: An Exhibition of the Exhibitions of Works from the Marieluise Hessel Collection, Center for Curatorial Studies, Bard College, Annandale-on-Hudson
Poul Kjærholm: Structures and Surfaces, Sean Kelly Gallery and R Gallery, New York, NY
Warhol on Warhol, La Casa Encendida, Madrid, Spain
Conceptual Photography 1964-1989I, Zwirner and Wirth Gallery, New York, NY
Final exhibition at 4 Clifford Street, Alison Jacques Gallery, London, UK
June Bride, Yossi Milo Gallery, New York, NY
PURE, Sean Kelly Gallery, New York, NY
Role Exchange, Sean Kelly Gallery, New York, NY
Some Kind of Portrait, Mark Selwyn Fine Art, Los Angeles, CA
2006
Robert Mapplethorpe: Still Moving & Lady, with photographs by Judy Linn, Alison Jacques Gallery, London, England
Screening of Patti Smith/Still Moving, Tate Modern, London, England
Pictures, Bernheimer Fine Old Masters, Munich, Germany
Andy Warhol/Supernova, Art Gallery of Ontario, Ontario, Canada
Good Vibrations: Le Arti Visive e il Rock, Palazzo delle Papesse Centro Arte Contemporanea, Siena, Italy
Lifestyles, Kunstmuseum St. Gallen, St. Gallen, Switzerland
The Eighth Square, Museum Ludwig, Cologne, Germany
Id, The Light Factory, Charlotte, NC
New York, New York: Fifty Years of Art, Architecture, Photography, Film and Video, Grimaldi Forum Monaco, Monaco
Robert Mapplethorpe, Galerie Thaddaeus Ropac, Salzburg, Austria
Robert Mapplethorpe, Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art, Edinburgh, Scotland
Robert Mapplethorpe: Lisa Lyon, Baldwin Gallery, Aspen, CO
Mapplethorpe–Warhol: Celebrity Portraits, Marc Selwyn Fine Art, Los Angeles, CA and Sean Kelly Gallery, New York, NY
2005–2006
Robert Mapplethorpe: Porträts und Erotik, Galerie im Alten Rathaus, Prien am Cheimsee, Germany and Stadtgalerie, Klagenfurt, Austria
2005
Sacred and Profane: Robert Mapplethorpe, Fototeca de Cuba, Havana, Cuba
Robert Mapplethorpe, Alison Jacques Gallery, London, England
Mapplethorpe’s Rooms, Stella Kay Gallery, Moscow, Russia
Robert Mapplethorpe, Galeria Fortes Vilaça, Sao Paulo, Brazil
Mapplethorpe Neoclassical, Sean Kelly Gallery, New York, NY
Robert Mapplethorpe: Flowers, Galleri Skarsktedt, Stockholm, Sweden
Robert Mapplethorpe, Olga Korper Gallery, Toronto, Ontario, Canada
Robert Mapplethorpe: Tra Antico e Moderno - Un’antologia, Pallazzina della Promotrice delle Belle Arti, Turin, Italy
Robert Mapplethorpe, Galerie Thaddeus Ropac, Paris, France
2004
Robert Mapplethorpe: Still Life Portraits, Thomasville Cultural Center, Thomasville, GA
Robert Mapplethorpe: Black Nude Men, Galeria Senda Espai 292, Barcelona, Spain
The World of Robert Mapplethorpe, Kunst Merano Arte, Merano, Italy
Robert Mapplethorpe: Self Portraits 1974-1988, Fay Gold Gallery, Atlanta, GA
Robert Mapplethorpe: Body Parts, Galerie Thaddaeus Ropac, Paris, France
Robert Mapplethorpe and the Classical Tradition: Photographs and Mannerist Prints, Deutsche Guggenheim, Berlin, Germany
Nine Favourites, Galerie Thomas Schulte, Berlin, Germany
Pictures Pictures, Marc Selwyn Fine Art, Los Angeles, CA
2003
Eye to Eye: Robert Mapplethorpe selected by Cindy Sherman, Sean Kelly Gallery, New York, NY
Robert Mapplethorpe, Olga Korper Gallery, Toronto, Canada
Robert Mapplethorpe: Sculptures and hand painted photographs, asperyjacques, London, England
2002
Xavier Hufkens, Brussels, Belgium
Robert Mapplethorpe Retrospective, Museum of Contemporary Art, Sapporo, Japan (solo)
Galerie Thomas Schulte, Berlin, Germany
Flowers, Galerie Stefan Röpke Cologne, Germany
2001
Galerie Thaddäus Ropac- Salzburg, Salzburg, Austria
Senior & Shopmaker, New York, NY
Stefan Röpke, Cologne, Germany
2000
Cheim & Read, New York, NY
Aktionsforum Praterinsel, Munich, Germany
Senior & Shopmaker, New York, NY
Patricia Laligant Photography, New York, NY
Fifty One Fine Art Photography, Antwerp, Belgium
1999
Hamiltons Gallery, London, England
Andrea Rosen, New York, NY
Fay Gold Gallery, Atlanta, GA
Galerie Thomas Schulte, Berlin, Germany
1998
Karen Mc Cready Fine Art, New York, NY
Cheim & Read, New York, NY
Houldsworth Fine Art, London, England
Xavier Hufkens, Brussels, Belgium
1997
Konfrontation: Mapplethorpe/Palavrakis, Galerie Stefan Röpke Cologne, Germany
1996
Sex and Crime, Sprengel Museum, Hannover, Germany
Robert Mapplethorpe Polaroids, Galerie Stefan Röpke, Cologne, Germany
1995
Faces: 1975-1995, Pelham Arts Center, Pelham, NY
1994
Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, NY
1992
Tokyo Metropolitan Art Museum, Tokyo, Japan (traveled)
1991
Fashion Photography Since 1945, Victoria and Albert Museum London, England
1990
The Indomitable Spirit, International Center of Photography, Midtown NY (catalog, traveled)
1989
150 Years of Photography, National Art Gallery, Washington, DC (catalog, traveled)
Institute of Contemporary Art, Philadelphia, PA (catalog, traveled)
1988
National Portrait Gallery, London, England
Identity: Representations of the Self, Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, NY
Robert Mapplethorpe, Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam, The Netherlands
First Person Singular: Self Portrait Photography, The High Museum at Georgia-Pacific Center, Atlanta, GA
1986
Invitation: La Revue Parkett, Centre Nat'l d'Art & de Culture Georges Pompidou, Paris, France
1985
Self-Portrait: The Photographer's Persona 1840-1985, Museum of Modern Art, New York, NY
1984
The Heroic Figure, Contemporary Arts Museum, Houston, TX
1983
New Art, Tate Gallery, London, England
Robert Mapplethorpe 1970-1983, Institute of Contemporary Art, London, UK
1982
Counterparts: Form and Emotion in Photographs, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, NY
1979
People Watching, Museum of Modern Art, New York, NY
International Center of Photography, New York, NY
1978
Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington, DC
Los Angeles Institute of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, CA
1976
Animals, Holly Solomon Gallery, New York, NY
1974
Recent Religious and Ritual Art, Buecker and Harpsichords, New York, NY
1973
Polaroids, Light Gallery, New York, NY

Public Collections

Tampa Museum of Art
Tweed Museum of Art, Duluth, Minnesota
Victoria & Albert Museum, London, England
Wadsworth Atheneum, Hartford, Connecticut
Whitney Museum of American Art, New York
Museum Ludwig, Cologne, West Germany
Museum of Art, Norman, Oklahoma
Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, Texas
Museum of Modern Art, New York
National Archives of Canada, Ottawa, Canada
National Portrait Gallery, London
New Orleans Museum of Art, Louisiana
Portland Center of the Visual Art, California
San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, California
Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam, The Netherlands
Frankfurter Kunstverein, Frankfurt, West Germany
Getty Museum, Malibu, California
Hara Museum of Contemporary Art, Tokyo, Japan
High Museum of Art, Atlanta, Georgia
International Center of Photography, New York
La Jolla Museum of Contemporary Art, California
Israel Museum, Jerusalem, Israel
Madison Art Center, Wisconsin
Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York
Moderna Museet, Stockholm, Sweden
Australian National Gallery, Canberra, Australia
Bank of America Collection, San Francisco, California
Boston Museum of Fine Arts, Massachusetts
Bowdoin College Museum of Art, Brunswick, Maine
Center for Creative Photography, University of Arizona
Centre Pompidou, Paris, France
Chase Manhattan Bank Collection, New York
Chrysler Museum, Norfolk, Virginia
Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.
Frankfurter Kunstverein, Frankfurt, West Germany
Portrait Gallery of Canada, Ontario, Canada
Centro de Arte Reina Sofia, Madrid, Spain
Brooklyn Museum, Brooklyn, NY
Dallas Museum of Art, Dallas, TX
Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, NY
National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC
Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, NY
Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago, IL