See Rare Robert Mapplethorpe Polaroids for His Birthday

Never underestimate the magic of the Polaroid.

Robert Mapplethorpe, Lucy, Paris (1973). Photo: © Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation. Used by permission. Courtesy: Sean Kelly, New York.

Today would mark beloved photographer Robert Mapplethorpe‘s 69th birthday, and in celebration, Sean Kelly Gallery will open “Unique,” a carefully-curated exhibition of his Polaroids from 1970–1975, on November 6.

Just this past month, Mapplethorpe made auction news for his controversial Man in Polyester Suit photograph, which was the subject of an obscenity lawsuit in 1990, when it sold for $478,000 at Sotheby’s New York.

The new exhibition features 25 self-portraits (taken long before the dawn of the “selfie”), still lifes, and pictures of the photographer’s lovers and friends, whom he was so often moved to document.

Robert Mapplethorpe, Untitled (Hand and Mattress), (circa 1973). Photo: © Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation. Used by permission. Courtesy: Sean Kelly, New York.

Robert Mapplethorpe,
Untitled (Hand and Mattress), (circa 1973).
Photo: © Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation. Used by permission.
Courtesy: Sean Kelly, New York.

The Polaroid “instant camera” was invented in 1948, and rose to popularity a few years later. In the early ’70s, Polaroids were cheap, and it was in fact the only camera Mapplethorpe owned at the time. These early images provide a window into Mapplethorpe’s artistic development and his initial exploration of intimacy, composition, structure and design.

Photography, Mapplethrope once said, “was the perfect medium, or so it seemed, for the ‘70s and ‘80s, when everything was fast. If I were to make something that took two weeks to do, I’d lose my enthusiasm. It would become an act of labor and the love would be gone.”

Robert Mapplethorpe, Untitled (Peter Berlin) (circa 1974). Photo: © Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation. Used by permission. Courtesy: Sean Kelly, New York.

Robert Mapplethorpe, Untitled (Peter Berlin) (circa 1974).
Photo: © Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation. Used by permission.
Courtesy: Sean Kelly, New York.

Robert Mapplethorpe: Unique” will be on display at Sean Kelly Gallery from November 7–December 19, 2015. An opening reception will take place on November 6 from 6:00–8:00 p.m.


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