Robert Mapplethorpe by Sofia Coppola
November 25, 2011 - January 7, 2012
The opening will take place on Friday November 25th from 6:30pm to 8:30pm
Following collaborations with Robert Wilson
and Hedi Slimane, Galerie Thaddaeus Ropac
has invited Sofia Coppola to curate a new
Robert Mapplethorpe exhibition.
This exhibition uses the same approach as
the show “Robert Mapplethorpe: Eye to Eye”,
which was curated by American artist Cindy
Sherman in New York in 2003, and “Robert
Mapplethorpe Curated by David Hockney”,
which was presented in London in 2005. The
idea is to have a contemporary artist bring his
or her take on an oeuvre as significant as that
of Robert Mapplethorpe’s.
Celebrated American director Sofia Coppola selected the images from The Robert
Mapplethorpe Foundation in New York—with whom the gallery has collaborated for this
exhibition. By using rarely seen and little-known images taken by Mapplethorpe, Coppola has
created an installation very much in step with her world. Always inspired by images, the director
uses photographs to orient the visual concept of her films. She draws inspiration from images
pulled from magazines, taken by iconic photographers, and even snapped with her own
camera. Whether done consciously or not, from a single glimpse of the photographic ensemble,
the viewer could easily imagine the photos to be a mood board for a future film. However, there
is no “narrative” that weaves the selection of images together: the viewer has the freedom to
invent fictional characters within the nuances of gray.
Sofia Coppola extracted gentle images from Robert Mapplethorpe’s archive: contemplative
moments from which a delicate tension emerges. Known for his erotic and provocative images
and the metaphysical nature he often imbues his subject matters with, the viewer is able to
discover a nearly-unexplored side of the artist. Mapplethorpe’s portraits of children are taken
with an intense gaze: Honey (1976), Andes (1979). He photographs animals languidly sprawled
out: Muffin (1981), Kitten (1983). His portraits of charismatic women seize the intimacy of
introspective moments: Annabelle’s Mother (1978), Paloma Picasso (1980). Mapplethorpe is
also famous for his still life photographs of flowers. All of these stock-still people and things,
replete with grace and candour, are presented through the gaze of a creative woman:
Coppola’s innate sense of beauty is something she has in common with Robert Mapplethorpe.
She knows how to emphasize, in the silence of suspended moments, the tenderness and
emotion present in the artist’s work.
Sofia Coppola’s selection includes four loans from prestigious museums: Katherine Cebrian
(1980) and Waves (1980) are part of the permanent collection of London’s Tate Modern, Melia
Marden (1983) is part of the Guggenheim collection and Fireplace with Flowers (1986) belongs
to the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts.
Robert Mapplethorpe was born in 1946 in Floral Park, NY and died in 1989. He took his first
photographs using a Polaroid camera. Among snapshots of still lifes and other subjects, many
of his early polaroids are self-portraits and portraits of close companions, such as
singer/artist/poet Patti Smith. Some of his early work includes unique presentations of his
photographs, displayed in self-created frames that morph his photography into sculptural
objects. Mapplethorpe later acquired a Hasselblad camera and photographed his circle of
friends and acquaintances, notably artists, composers, socialites, porn film stars and members
of the underground S&M scene. Certain photographs are considered shocking to some, due to
the explicitness of their content, but they are also extremely elegant in terms of technical
mastery. At the beginning of the 1980s, Mapplethorpe began to photograph very classical
images: sculptural nudes of men and women, still life floral scenes, and formal portraits of artists
Sofia Coppola was born in 1971 in New York. She is a film director, screenwriter, and producer.
After studying fine art at the California Institute of the Arts, she directed her first film, The Virgin
Suicides in 1999. She received an Academy Award and three Golden Globe Awards for her
2003 film, Lost in Translation. Her 2006 film Marie Antoinette, shot on location in Versailles,
received an Academy Award for Best Costume Design. Coppola’s most recent film,
Somewhere (2010) received the Golden Lion of the 67th Venice Film Festival.
Sofia Coppola lives between New York and Paris with her husband, Thomas Mars and their two