Robert Mapplethorpe (1946–1989), the now iconic photographer, saw both critical acclaim and controversy in his brief but prolific career. A new exhibition at the Guggenheim Museum celebrates this groundbreaking artist and his legacy: Implicit Tensions: Mapplethorpe Now, a yearlong exhibition, opens January 25. Known for his starkly beautiful botanical pictures, striking portraits, statuesque nudes and rawly honest self-portraits, Mapplethorpe ignited debate over free speech, censorship and public art funding, with his exploration of taboo homoerotic and sadomasochistic imagery.
The exhibition has two sequential parts. The first phase features highlights from the Guggenheim’s extensive collection of over two hundred photographs and unique objects, gifted by the Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation in 1993. These include early Polaroids, collages, and mixed-media constructions; iconic, classically erotic photographs of male and female nudes, flowers, and statuary; portraits of artists, celebrities, and acquaintances; explicit depictions of the S&M underground; and some well-known self-portraits.