Museum of Contemporary Art Australia (MCA)
23 Feb 1995 to 30 Apr 1995
Robert Mapplethorpe’s high degree of visibility is in part due to the controversy that surrounded his work, reaching a crescendo following his death in 1989. However, in reality, the images which created this controversy – works depicting taboo aspects of sexuality – comprised a relatively small part of his monumental body of work.
This retrospective allowed Australian audiences to see the full thematic and technical range of Mapplethorpe’s oeuvre, for the first time. The curator, Germano Celant, then of the Guggenheim Museum, selected 209 works from Mapplethorpe’s prolific career, of which approximately 100 were silver gelatin prints, and the rest were works in other media including platinum prints on paper, silk and canvas.
Mapplethorpe did not train as a photographer, however he became fascinated with the history of photography and with its technical potential. He immersed himself in a study of works by the masters of the medium, including Edward Weston, Julia Margaret Cameron, Cecil Beaton and others, and explored printing techniques including colour Polaroid, photogravure, platinum prints on paper and on linen, Cibachromes and dye-transfer processes.
Mapplethorpe’s unique vision was an amalgam of influences, innovations and a personal quality that the artist himself was at a loss to describe: ‘I don’t understand the way my pictures are. It’s all about the relationship I have with the subject that’s unique to me. Taking a picture and sexuality are parallels. They’re both unknowns. And that’s what excites me most.’
Exhibition courtesy of the Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation, New York
Louisiana Museum, Humlebaek, Denmark: 8 February – 24 May 1992
Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe, Hamburg, Germany: 30 June – 20 August 1992
Palazzo Fortuny, Venice, Italy: 30 August 1992 – 3 January 1993
Moderna Museet, Stockholm, Sweden: 30 January – 21 March 1993
Turun Taidemuseo, Turku, Finland: 7 April – 31 May 1993
Palais des Beaux-Arts, Brussels, Belgium: 5 June 1 August 1993
Museo Pecci, Prato, Italy: 25 September 1993 – 7 January 1994
Tel Aviv Museum of Art, Tel Aviv, Israel: 27 January – 5 April 1994
Fundació Joan Miró, Barcelona, Spain: 21 April – 19 June 1994
KunstHausWien, Vienna, Austria: 8 September 1994 – 29 January 1995