Robert Mapplethorpe is widely regarded as one of the world’s most important artists of the late twentieth century. The group of photographs in ARTIST ROOMS is one of the best collections of his work in the world. The selection of work on display at The Atkinson includes iconic self-portraits, studies of ﬂowers, portraits of many of the most inﬂuential artists and celebrities of the New York cultural scene in the 1980s. These include the artist’s close friend and muse Patti Smith and fellow artists Andy Warhol and David Hockney.
The exhibition also includes work from the late 1970s and early ’80s when Mapplethorpe was documenting the New York S&M scene. The resulting photographs are shocking for their content and remarkable for their technical and formal mastery.
In 1986 Mapplethorpe was diagnosed with AIDS. Despite his illness, he accelerated his creative efforts and continued to broaden the scope of his photographic inquiry. The Whitney Museum of American Art mounted his ﬁrst major American museum retrospective in 1988, one year before his death in 1989. His vast, provocative, and powerful body of work has established him as one of the most important artists of the twentieth century.