“If I had been born one hundred or two hundred years ago, I might have been a sculptor,
but photography is a very quick way to see, to make a sculpture.’’
– Robert Mapplethorpe
From the 26th of March until the 13th of July 2014, Grand Palais welcomes the art works of the genius erotic photographer with the largest museum retrospective that features a selection of 250 shots. This exhibition proposes an insight into the arty New York of the 1970 – 1980s and offers a fresh outlook on his illuminating work.
Our voyage through the largest museum retrospective, dedicated to the dark angel of beauty, began in black and white space that later transformed into a world of vibrant colours. This collection features 250 images of Mapplethorpe’s entire works and periods, which clearly portray different influences with the main focus on photography, sexuality and the body. According to Mapplethorpe, “Photography and sexuality have a lot in common, both are question marks that’s precisely what excites me most in life.”
Throughout the whole collection, all the images cover various aspects of Mapplethorpe’s art and interests: nudes, bronzes, portraits of emblematic personalities like Patti Smith, Iggy Pop, Grace Jones and Andy Warhol, anatomical details, the phallic forms in nature, bodies as flowers and flowers as bodies, and sometimes hints of pornography. To support his interest in human body and nature, he states ‘’I am looking for perfection in forms. I do that with portraits. I do it with cocks. I do it with flowers.’’
This American photographer who died from AIDS wanted to be ‘’a creator of images’’ just like his predecessor Man Ray, rather than a photographer, a poet rather than a documentary witness. The intimate relation that he had with his art is clearly seen throughout this journey, the visitors are invited to discover his personal life and interest at the same time. At one point in the erotically saturated exhibition, we see his links to religion. He touches upon this aspect of his life by saying ‘’I was a Catholic boy. I went to church every Sunday. A church has a certain magic and mystery for a child. It still shows in how I arrange things. It’s always little altars.’’
From this intimate corner, we enter a space where we see Patti Smith’s black and white portraits and a short video, which shows her in a controversial and ironical composition that touches both religion and eroticism.
Just as we were heading towards the last room, which is forbidden for visitors under 18 years old, we were eager to discover what was hiding behind the black fringe curtain. And there it was, his scandalous and striking compositions that display sadomasochism sexual desire and his personal pornographic fascination.
This genius photographer explores the body, but at the same time pushes his art to the limits of pornography. His artistic nature was never disputed, he was always recognised as someone gifted with an original and vivid imagination. And for us, it was an intriguing journey to the universe of the great artist.