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Robert Mapplethorpe (American, 1946–1989)

About this artist

Source: The Museum of Modern Art

Born in 1946 in Queens, New York, Robert Mapplethorpe attended art school in Brooklyn, and became interested in photography when he acquired a Polaroid camera in 1970. He quickly fell in love with taking pictures and began using a medium-format camera a few years later, working almost exclusively in the studio and with black-and-white film. Mapplethorpe's subjects were diverse, and included portraits of friends, artists, and celebrities; self-portraits; nudes of men and women; and classically composed still lifes of flowers and Greek and Roman sculpture. His well-known sitters included his close friend singer Patti Smith and the American artists Andy Warhol and Louise Bourgeois. His photographs of homoerotic scenes from the underground S&M scene in New York fuelled a national debate over the public funding of controversial art.

Mapplethorpe's very rich and promising career was cut short when he died of AIDS-related illness at the age of 42. His legacy as an artist and activist is preserved by the foundation in his name, which supports photography exhibitions in museums and medical research in the fight against HIV and AIDS.


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