Following collaborations with Robert Wilson and Hedi Slimane, Galerie Thaddaeus Ropac has invited Sofia Coppola to curate a new Robert Mapplethorpe exhibition.
This exhibition uses the same approach as the show “Robert Mapplethorpe: Eye to Eye”, which was curated by American artist Cindy Sherman in New York in 2003, and “Robert Mapplethorpe Curated by David Hockney”, which was presented in London in 2005. The idea is to have a contemporary artist bring his or her take on an œuvre as significant as that of Robert Mapplethorpe’s.
Celebrated American director Sofia Coppola selected the images from The Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation in New York—with whom the gallery has collaborated for this exhibition. By using rarely seen and little-known images taken by Mapplethorpe, Coppola has created an installation very much in step with her world. Always inspired by images, the director uses photographs to orient the visual concept of her films. She draws inspiration from images pulled from magazines, taken by iconic photographers, and even snapped with her own camera. Whether done consciously or not, from a single glimpse of the photographic ensemble, the viewer could easily imagine the photos to be a mood board for a future film. However, there is no “narrative” that weaves the selection of images together: the viewer has the freedom to invent fictional characters within the nuances of gray.
Sofia Coppola extracted gentle images from Robert Mapplethorpe’s archive: contemplative moments from which a delicate tension emerges. Known for his erotic and provocative images and the metaphysical nature he often imbues his subject matters with, the viewer is able to discover a nearly-unexplored side of the artist. Mapplethorpe’s portraits of children are taken with an intense gaze: Honey (1976), Andes (1979). He photographs animals languidly sprawled out: Muffin (1981), Kitten (1983). His portraits of charismatic women seize the intimacy of introspective moments: Annabelle’s Mother (1978), Paloma Picasso (1980). Mapplethorpe is also famous for his still life photographs of flowers. All of these stock-still people and things, replete with grace and candour, are presented through the gaze of a creative woman: Coppola’s innate sense of beauty is something she has in common with Robert Mapplethorpe. She knows how to emphasize, in the silence of suspended moments, the tenderness and emotion present in the artist’s work.
Sofia Coppola’s selection includes four loans from prestigious museums: Katherine Cebrian (1980) and Waves (1980) are part of the permanent collection of London’s Tate Modern, Melia Marden (1983) is part of the Guggenheim collection and Fireplace with Flowers (1986) belongs to the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts.