A Major Gift of Robert Mapplethorpe Photos From a Famous Dutch Choreographer Lands at the Rijksmuseum

The group of 24 works includes a self-portrait, floral images, erotic scenes, and a portrait of the donor himself.

Robert Mapplethorpe, Self-portrait with Cigarette (1980). Donation of Hans van Manen and Henk van Dijk, 2019. ©Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation. Photo courtesy of the Rijksmuseum.

One of Robert Mapplethorpe’s final exhibitions during his lifetime was at the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam in 1988. No one expected him to be able to travel–he would die a little more than a year later, from AIDS-related complications. “Robert had always loved Amsterdam,” his friend and fellow photographer Lynn Davis recounted in Mapplethorpe: A Biography. “At the opening, he was surrounded by all his old friends….He was really weak, but we spent one afternoon looking at the van Goghs and that seemed to cheer him up.” 

And it seems that Amsterdam loved Mapplethorpe back. Now, 24 of the late artist’s works are being donated to the city’s Rijksmuseum, a gift from Dutch choreographer Hans van Manen and his husband, Henk van Dijk.

“Donating these works now means I can enjoy doing so myself, in the knowledge that they will stay together forever,” said van Manen in a press release. “I have been looking at them for 40 years; now other people will be able to enjoy them.”

Robert Mapplethorpe, Hans van Manen (1979). Donation by Hans van Manen and Henk van Dijk, 2019. ©Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation. Photo courtesy Rijksmuseum.

Van Manen’s collection includes a 1980 self-portrait of the photographer moodily smoking; 1982’s self-explanatory Naked man seen from behind, leaning again a railing, among other erotic images; a portfolio of floral photographs; and a portrait Mapplethorpe took of van Manen himself. The Rijksmusuem plans to include these works in an exhibition of American photography from 1839 to the present day that the institution is currently organizing.

The museum has 150,000 photographs in its collection, but until this point, only had one work by Mapplethorpe, a portrait of Patti Smith. “Good Mapplethorpes fetch such high prices (and have been doing so for a long while) that they are beyond the reach of the museum unless they can be acquired through donation,” the museum said in a statement. 

“We are deeply grateful to Hans van Manen and Henk van Dijk for their generous gift,” said Taco Dibbits, director of the Rijksmuseum, in the statement. “Benefactors such as themselves enable museums to enrich their collections with great art that would otherwise be beyond their reach.”

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