The American photographer Robert Mapplethorpe (1946–1989) lived a life of passion in the New York underground and rock scenes in the 1970s and ’80s. That passion also made its way into his art.
Consisting of more than 250 works, the retrospective exhibition in the Museum of Contemporary Art Kiasma offers a broad overview of the key periods of Mapplethorpe’s career. In their aspiration for perfection, Mapplethorpe’s pictures blend beauty and eroticism with pain, pleasure and death. Mapplethorpe also photographed his celebrity friends such as Patti Smith, Andy Warhol and Richard Gere. Although solidly anchored in their time, his photographs are also universal and topical even today.
Arriving from Paris to Helsinki, the high-profile exhibition is a unique opportunity to learn about the art and life of one of the most important photographic artists of our time. The exhibition is curated by Jérôme Neutres from Paris with Director Pirkko Siitari and Chief Curator Marja Sakari from Kiasma.
Robert Mapplethorpe, “America’s own Tom of Finland”
In Finland, the works of Mapplethorpe bring to mind our national treasure Tom of Finland, who also depicted gay culture in the 1970s and ’80s. The Kiasma exhibition does in fact contain drawings by Tom of Finland and also a portrait of Tom of Finland (alias Touko Laaksonen). The men met each other in the late 1970s, when several exhibitions of Laaksonen’s work were being done in the United States. They admired each others’ works: Mapplethorpe owned several of Laaksonen’s drawings, and Laaksonen drew Mapplethorpe’s portrait.
“The abstract, especially in those rough sketches, is very important
to me, perhaps because of my advertising background, where layout
is so important. Sometimes those first few lines cut the paper into
such satisfying shapes that I don’t want to go on, but I always
do, adding nostrils and nipples and bootstraps until I have filled
the paper up as usual.” —
Tom of Finland