Photography | Huppert Curates Mapplethorpe

Robert Mapplethorpe
Curated by Isabelle Huppert
Galerie Thaddeus Ropac
Salzburg Villa Kast, Austria
Until 26th October, 2013

Robert Mapplethorpe (Born 1946) created a vast, provocative, and powerful body of work that has established him as one of the most important twentieth century photographers, examples of whose oeuvre can be found in the collections of important museums around the globe. Diagnosed with AIDS in 1986, despite his illness, he increased his creative efforts, refining his approach and widening the scope of his work. New York’s Whitney Museum of American Art mounted his first major museum retrospective in 1988. That same year, he set up the Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation, its mission to promote photography, support museums that exhibit photographic art, and to fund medical research in the fight against AIDS and HIV-related infection. He died in 1989.

Mapplethorpe’s estate is represented by prominent galleries in North and South America, and in Europe by Galerie Thaddaeus Ropac, who, since 2005, in partnership with the New York based Foundation, have asked Hedi Slimane, Cindy Sherman, Robert Wilson, David Hockney and Sofia Coppola to act as guest curators and to select Mapplethorpe images for special exhibitions. Coppola’s selection was graphic, Wilson’s pure, Slimane’s in tone, rather dark. This year’s exhibition, which opened at the Villa Kast in Salzburg, Austria, last weekend is curated by legendary French actress Isabelle Huppert.

Mapplethorpe died young, and if the ten self-portraits on the biography page of the Foundation website might appear to illustrate the various stages and diverse aspects of the photographer’s adult life – the obsessions, his fixations and investigations, excluding the flowers, and allowing only a little nudity to creep in – the 100 images chosen by Huppert tell a broader story. As if studying for a part, treating her task with the devout seriousness, she explains that to her, in the particular world that Mapplethorpe made his own, everything is connected, the fontiers blurred, but that in each [image] is pure emotion and perfection of form –attributes which might easily be attributed to a great actor about his, or her, career. Including flower pictures, female and male nudes, as well as portraits in her sensitive and lyrically composed selection, the overall feeling that comes across is that Huppert at 60, having appeared in more than 90 film and television productions since 1971, who has worked closely with film directors Claude Chabrol, Jean-Luc Goddard and Michael Haneke, who has been nominated for and has won an endless list of awards, would nevertheless have liked – had she been born much later – to have been cast as the little girl in Lindsey Key(1985), whose far away thoughts and unstudied pose are frozen by Mapplethorpe’s camera. She could have been good as the spectral, shrouded figure in Lisa Lyon (1982). She would most certainly have shone in the role of Mapplethorpe’s muse, Patti Smith.

Robert Mapplethorpe photographs, selected by Isabelle Huppert for the exhibition include, from top
Lindsay Key, 1985
Alistair Butler, 1980
Orchid, 1986
Patti Smith, 1987
Lisa Lyon, 1982

All photographs ©Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation. Used by permission
Courtesy Galerie Thaddeus Ropac, Paris / Salzburg

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