His exquisitely composed black and white photographs are remarkable as much for their technical virtuosity as for their sometimes controversial subject matter. His work has often been described as a unique combination of beauty and salaciousness.
Portraiture was central to his creative output, and Mapplethorpe established his reputation in the 1970s and 80s with photographs of his circle of friends and contemporaries from the New York cultural scene– artists, musicians, socialites, and members of the New York underground. The exhibition concentrates on the concepts of musicians, artists and classical poses and feature a selection of portraits of these influential figures, including Iggy Pop, Andy Warhol, David Hockney and Arnold Schwarzenegger, as well as Mapplethorpe’s close companion, singer and poet, Patti Smith.
It opens up a dialogue between the work and contemporary society’s increasing fascination with celebrity culture, the concept of the growing sense of the self, and the powers of advertising and self-promotion through imagery. It also highlights connections between the art of the photographic and the painted portrait by referencing specific works found in The Bowes Museum’s permanent collection.