Objects of Desire: David Croland’s Robert Mapplethorpe Collection

Launch Slideshow

This autumn, Sotheby’s Photographs sale in New York will offer fascinating insight into the early work and romances of Robert Mapplethorpe. In a sale sequence called Robert Mapplethorpe: Objects of Desire, Important Works from the Collection of David Croland, exceptionally personal images and objects by the late photographer tell the story of his three-year relationship with model and artist David Croland, the first male subject he photographed. Croland served as both muse and support, introducing the young artist to curators and his many influential friends in the world of fashion and art. “I remember the first time Robert and I came to Sotheby’s. He said, ‘You won’t believe this place.’ He was so bowled over by all the lovely things,” recalls Croland, adding that in 2015, Sotheby’s sold one of Mapplethorpe’s most iconic photos, Man in Polyester Suit. “These objects belong at Sotheby’s.” Click ahead for a first look at Croland’s collection, never before offered at auction. 

5 October | New York

Objects of Desire: David Croland’s Robert Mapplethorpe Collection

  • Robert Mapplethorpe, Le Serpentine/Spartacus, circa 1971. Estimate $4,000–6,000.
    “Robert gave this Polaroid to me when he came back from his first visit to Paris. We are pairing this with a postcard Robert sent me from the same trip. It’s got this great picture on the front, but it’s really all about the text. It’s very romantic and contextualises the photo.” –David Croland 

  • Robert Mapplethorpe, Untitled (David Against Brick Wall), 1970. Estimate $30,000–50,000.
    One of the first objects to enter Croland’s collection was Untitled (David Against Brick Wall), an arresting assemblage that includes a painted halftone of the model and his model comp card. It was gifted by Mapplethorpe on occasion of Croland’s 23rd birthday. “This hung in my home at Irving Place, and it’s really something. The text with the arrow includes my modelling sizes in English, French and German for the clients I worked with. That’s the original frame that we bought at Lamston's Five and Dime store.” –David Croland

  • Robert Mapplethorpe, Untitled (Art School Drawing), 1968. Estimate $8,000–12,000.
    Long before he was famous for his floral still life and boundary-pushing sadomasochistic portraits, Mapplethorpe was a young artist finding his voice while studying at Pratt Institute in the late 1960s. This vibrant, early drawing, with its unrestrained use of colour, was made while he was still enrolled at Pratt.  “Both Robert and Patti used to do what I call ‘orgasm drawings.’ They look like squirts of colour. They’re highly sexually charged.” –David Croland

  • Robert Mapplethorpe, Self-Portrait, circa 1971. Estimate $50,000–70,000.
    Throughout his career, Mapplethorpe possessed a profound understanding of three-dimensional design, which he applied not only to the creation of his unique mixed media objects but also to amplify the physical presence of his photographs. Mapplethorpe's affinity for the sculptural led him to create a number of wall pieces, including the object offered here. For this photograph – an intimate exchange from artist to lover – Mapplethorpe created a frame out of a painted Polaroid film case with attached dice-laden string for hanging. 

  • Robert Mapplethorpe, Selected Necklaces, circa 1971. Estimate $10,000–15,000.
    In 1969, Mapplethorpe began making and selling jewelry. The handmade necklaces offered here, with macramé knots and various talisman-like charms, were worn by both Mapplethorpe and Croland. “Robert loved jewellery. Something as simple as these necklaces becomes very sexy once tied around your neck with the charms coming down. Sometimes he'd wear eight at once.” –David Croland

  • Robert Mapplethorpe, Untitled (Black Paper Bag), circa 1971. Estimate $20,000–30,000.
    Much of Mapplethorpe’s work from the late 1960s and early 1970s consists of assemblages of appropriated photomechanical imagery. Using found imagery from pornographic magazines that he manipulated and altered, Mapplethorpe explored in these works religion, eroticism, homosexuality and the quest for classic beauty, themes that he would continue to explore throughout his career in photography. “This is one of the most extraordinary pieces ever made by any human. He would shove pornographic images into potato sacks, and then he would spray paint them so that the bodies are visible through the netting.”  –David Croland

  • Robert Mapplethorpe, Untitled (Swans), 1971. Estimate $10,000–15,000.
    A unique object, this work is comprised of a decal on paper, spray-painted white and yellow, and framed to the photographer's specifications. 


More from Sotheby's

We use our own and third party cookies to enable you to navigate around our Site, use its features and engage on social media, and to allow us to perform analytics, remember your preferences, provide services that you have requested and produce content and advertisements tailored to your interests, both on our Site as well as others. For more information, or to learn how to change your cookie or marketing preferences, please see our updated Privacy Policy & Cookie Policy.

By continuing to use our Site, you consent to our use of cookies and to the practices described in our updated Privacy Policy.