Implicit Tensions: Mapplethorpe Now

Self Portrait, 1980 

The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum presents a yearlong exhibition conceived in two sequential parts honoring the groundbreaking work and sustained legacy of Robert Mapplethorpe (1946–1989), one of the most critically acclaimed yet controversial American artists of the late twentieth century.

Pictures / Self Portrait, 1977

‘Implicit Tensions: Mapplethorpe Now’ is on view in the museum’s Mapplethorpe Gallery on Tower Level 4 from January 25–July 10, 2019 and July 24, 2019–January 5, 2020. The exhibition is organized by Lauren Hinkson, Associate Curator, Collections, and Susan Thompson, Associate Curator, with Levi Prombaum, Curatorial Assistant, Collections.

Exhibition view: Implicit Tensions: Mapplethorpe Now, The Guggenheim Museum

The Guggenheim Museum holds one of the most comprehensive public repositories of the work of Robert Mapplethorpe in the world, having received a generous gift of approximately two hundred photographs and unique objects from the Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation in 1993. This gift also catalyzed the development of the museum’s photography collection and inaugurated the Photography Council, an acquisitions committee dedicated to actively building and strengthening the Guggenheim’s collection of work in photography and new media by both established and emerging artists.

Left: Ajitto, 1981. Middle: Phillip Prioleau, 1982. Right: Patti Smith, 1976 

Thirty years after the artist’s death, ‘Implicit Tensions: Mapplethorpe Now’ celebrates the full range of Mapplethorpe’s extraordinary artistic contributions as well as the impact of the Mapplethorpe Foundation’s gift on the museum’s photography collection and exhibition program.

Calla Lily, 1986 

The first phase of the exhibition features an installation of highlights from the Guggenheim’s rich collection of Mapplethorpe holdings, including selections from the artist’s early Polaroids, collages, and mixed-media constructions; iconic, classicizing photographs of male and female nudes, flowers, and statuary; portraits of artists, celebrities, and acquaintances; explicit depictions of the S&M underground; and some of Mapplethorpe’s best-known self-portraits.

Left: Ken and Tyler, 1985. Right: Lisa Lyon, 1982

The second phase will address the artist’s resounding impact on the field of contemporary portraiture and self-representation and aims to reflect the many complex conversations surrounding Mapplethorpe’s work that have arisen over the past three decades.

Candy Darling, 1973 

In addition to a focused selection of Mapplethorpe photographs, the second phase will also feature contemporary artists from the Guggenheim’s collection who either actively engage with or reference Mapplethorpe’s work or whose approach to picturing the body and exploring identity through portraiture finds resonances with Mapplethorpe’s formal and social strategies. These artists include Rotimi Fani-Kayode, Lyle Ashton Harris, Glenn Ligon, Zanele Muholi, Catherine Opie, and Paul Mpagi Sepuya.



Exhibition until 10th of July. Reopening from 24th of July to 5th of January 2020
Courtesy of Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum © Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation

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