October 12, 2014


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Lot 333: Robert Mapplethorpe

Lot 333: Robert Mapplethorpe

Self Portrait

Gelatin silver print
#3 of 10
Signed and dated in black ink lower right; edition lower left; signed and dated with photographer's stamp verso; bears the inscription in pencil "RM #M8709.167-C" verso; bears the inscription in ink "1535 3/10 Self Portrait 1985" verso
Image: 15" x 15";
Sheet: 19.75" x 15.75"
Provenance: BlumHelman Gallery, New York, New York;
Private Collection, Santa Fe, New Mexico (acquired directly from the above, 1988)
Literature: Danto, Arthur C. Robert Mapplethorpe. New York: Random House, 1992. p 42.
Estimate: $25,000 - $35,000
Price Realized: $87,500
Inventory Id: 16333

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Photographer Robert Mapplethorpe (1946-1989) was immersed in what was perceived to be the fringes of society during the 1970s and 80s. He socialized and worked with artists, musicians, pornographic actors, and initiates of the S&M underground to create images that are electric with sexuality and beauty, yet balanced by a classical composition and the black and white format. Portraiture was important to his work as he explored culture and identity in his snapshots of personalities ranging from Andy Warhol to Debbie Harry. In his poignant photographic inquiry, he often used himself as a subject, creating self-portraits in many guises: clothed, nude, and in drag.

For Mapplethorpe's 1985 Self Portrait, he dons a pair of horns and looks intensely at the camera, perhaps challenging or enticing the viewer. The horns bring up many associations: the dichotomy of good and evil in Christianity; the Greek god Dionysus, aligned with debauchery and sexual hedonism; and, finally, the animalistic. Indeed, Mapplethorpe's proclivity for "sexual wonders" and "erotic monstrosities" has frequently been cited as an inspiration as well as a base for exploration in his work. At the same time, the work is not simply about sexual indulgence. Mapplethorpe is nude and depicted in half-length, like an antique or Neoclassical bust. His horns and tousled locks resemble the satyrs of classical mythology, who were male companions to Dionysus. Mapplethorpe cleverly sets S&M fetishism and gay culture within the language and framework of classical sculpture. Self Portrait from 1985 is a profound example of how Mapplethorpe challenged accepted boundaries and brought attention to marginal communities.

The self-portrait was an important trope for Mapplethorpe throughout his experimental and provocative career. He would create one of his last self-portraits in 1988, a year before his death from AIDS-related complications. Prior to his passing in 1989, Mapplethorpe was honored with a retrospective at the Whitney Museum of American Art. The artist's proof of this print resides in the collection of the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum.

"Biography." The Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation. Web. 30 July 2014.
"Robert Mapplethorpe." Tate Collections Online. Tate Museum. Web. 30 July 2014.
Szegedy-Maszak, Andrew. "A Distinctive Vision: The Classical Photography of Robert Mapplethorpe." Archaeology. Vol. 44, No. 1 (Jan/Feb 1991): 60-63. Web. 30 July 2014.