LONDON - The selection of works by Robert Mapplethorpe in our London Photographs sale this May coincides with a long overdue retrospective at the Grand Palais in Paris running until 13 July. The most important exhibition ever dedicated to the artist, it represents an overview of his artistic output from his early career in the 1970s to his death in 1989. Mapplethorpe’s dream was to exhibit there, and the Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation, the Guggenheim Museum in New York and several private collectors have made it a reality, gathering over 200 of his most interesting works.
Robert Mapplethorpe’s Ken Moody, 1983. To be offered in the 7 May Photographs sale in London. Estimate £5,000-7,000.

It’s a moment to catch Mapplethorpe in Paris as running until September over the river from the Grande Palais at the Musée Rodin, the photographer’s works are set against those of the sculptor in a way described by the President of the Foundation, Michael Stout, as “entirely different, but complementary.”

Robert Mapplethorpe’s Dan S., 1988. To be offered in the 7 May Photographs sale in London. Estimate £40,000-60,000.

Mapplethorpe’s career began in the late 1960s in Brooklyn, where he attended the Pratt Institute and lived with his first love, and lifelong friend Patti Smith. He began taking photographs using a Polaroid camera but his purchase of a Hasselblad medium format camera in the 1970s led to a series of portraits from his wide circle of friends and acquaintances. During the 1980s he became known for his often explicitly gay nudes as well as formal still lifes of flowers, including orchids and calla lillies. His taste for classical sculpture deeply influenced his photographic style, which highlights the beauty of the human body. 

Robert Mapplethorpe’s Robert Sherman, 1979. To be offered in the 7 May Photographs sale in London. Estimate £4,000-6,000.

This talent is well represented in three portraits that will be offered in the London Photographs sale this May. His 1983 portrait of Ken Moody; an oversized and unique print of the iconic Dan S. photographed from behind in 1980, which you can see in a smaller size at the Grand Palais exhibition; and a portrait of Robert Sherman in the original artist mount and frame.  

Gérôme Saint Germain is a cataloguer in the Photographs department, Sotheby’s Paris.

London, 7 May
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Robert Mapplethorpe

Grand Palais, Paris

Musée Rodin, Paris