11 Charming and Poetic Quotes by Robert Mapplethorpe

Today marks what would have been legendary photographer's 70th birthday.

Robert Mapplethorpe Self Portrait (1983). Photo Copyright Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation, NY. Used by permission Courtesy Alison Jacques Gallery, London
Robert Mapplethorpe Self Portrait (1983). Photo copyright Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation, NY. Used by permission Courtesy Alison Jacques Gallery, London

In June 1989, just a few months after his passing from AIDS, a retrospective of over 150 of Robert Mapplethorpe’s works, titled The Perfect Moment, was due to open at the Corcoran Art Gallery in Washington, DC. In a misguided attempt to avoid controversy due to the sexually-explicit nature of some of the photographs, the director cancelled the exhibition.

In protest, Mapplethorpe supporters congregated outside the gallery on the evening of June 30, 1989, projecting giant images of his work onto the side of the building, creating a powerful and moving tribute, and demonstrating the strong impact that the artist’s work had made on popular culture.

Today marks what would have been legendary photographer’s 70th birthday.

His profoundly intimate and boundary-breaking work continues to maintain contemporary relevance. Mapplethorpe is currently the subject of a major touring retrospective, begun at the LACMA and J Paul Getty Museums in Los Angeles and currently on view at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts through January 2017. In London, an exhibition curated by photographer Juergen Teller, titled “Teller on Mapplethorpe,” is slated to open later this month.

Here, we celebrate the fearless photographer with 11 quotes that reflect his enduring influence.

A visitor takes a photo of a self-portrait of the late US photographer Robert Mapplethorpe during the opening of an exhibition featuring his work at the Grand Palais in Paris on March 24, 2014. Courtesy of PATRICK KOVARIK/AFP/Getty Images.

A visitor takes a photo of a self-portrait of the late US photographer Robert Mapplethorpe during the opening of an exhibition featuring his work at the Grand Palais in Paris on March 24, 2014. Courtesy of PATRICK KOVARIK/AFP/Getty Images.

1. On photography:
“I went into photography because it seemed like the perfect vehicle for commenting on the madness of today’s existence.”

2. On method:
“I don’t have a formula. It’s a matter of being sensitive. Often photographers aren’t.”

3. On desire:
“I want to see the Devil in us all. That’s my real turn on.”

4. On being an artist:
“The whole point of being an artist is to learn about yourself. The photographs, I think, are less important than the life that one is leading.”

5. On art:
“Art is an accurate statement of the time in which it is made.”

6. On being a photographer:
“I think you have a really interesting life as a photographer. To me the most important thing is my experience, and not anything else. I care more about that than anything—I care about what I’ve gone through.”

7. On his plans towards the end of his life:
“I want to shoot animals, gorillas—then return to sculpture. I’m going to focus on large installations.”

8. On his interests:
“I’m looking for things I’ve never seen before. But I have trouble with the word ‘shocking’ because I’m not really shocked by anything…Basically, I’m selfish. I did [those photos] for myself— because I wanted to do them, because I wanted to see them. I wasn’t trying to educate anyone. I was interested in examining my own reactions.”

9. On beauty:
“I am obsessed with beauty. I want everything to be perfect, and of course it isn’t. And that’s a tough place to be because you’re never satisfied.”

10. On parents:
“I would never have done what I’d done if I’d considered my father as somebody I wanted to please.”

11. On God:
“I stand naked when I draw. God holds my hand and we sing together.”

US singer and songwriter Patti Smith poses during the opening of an exhibition dedicated to the late US photographer Robert Mapplethorpe at the Grand Palais in Paris on March 24, 2014. Courtesy of PATRICK KOVARIK/AFP/Getty Images.

US singer and songwriter Patti Smith poses during the opening of an exhibition dedicated to the late US photographer Robert Mapplethorpe at the Grand Palais in Paris on March 24, 2014. Courtesy of PATRICK KOVARIK/AFP/Getty Images.

Bonus—Patti Smith on Robert Mapplethorpe:
“Much has been said about Robert, and more will be added. Young men will adopt his gait. Young girls will wear white dresses and mourn his curls. He will be condemned and adored. His excesses damned or romanticized. In the end, truth will be found in his work, the corporeal body of the artist. It will not fall away.”


Follow artnet News on Facebook:


Want to stay ahead of the art world? Subscribe to our newsletter to get the breaking news, eye-opening interviews, and incisive critical takes that drive the conversation forward.

Share