Polaroids: Mapplethorpe

04.07.2009 — 13.09.2009

Modern Art Oxford

This exhibition traces the early use of instant photography by the celebrated and controversial American photographer Robert Mapplethorpe (1946 – 1989). Presenting 92 of his Polaroid photographs taken between 1970 and 1975, the exhibition offers a fascinating insight into Mapplethorpe’s formative years.

In the early 1970s, Mapplethorpe lived in New York’s legendary Chelsea Hotel with the rock singer Patti Smith. It was there that filmmaker Sandy Daley lent Mapplethorpe her Polaroid camera and he began his first photographic experiments.

Intimate in scale, the spontaneity of these early photographs contrasts starkly with his highly stylised images for which he later became famous. Signature elements of Mapplethorpe’s later work are visible in these early nudes, flower studies and still lifes, and his portraits of lovers and friends including Helen Marden, Sam Wagstaff, Marianne Faithfull, and Patti Smith. Poignantly simple, they range in tone from tender to provocative.

The exhibition is accompanied by a fully-illustrated book with an essay by curator Sylvia Wolf.

The exhibition was organised by the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, in collaboration with the Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation, New York.

Polaroids: Mapplethorpe is curated by Sylvia Wolf, Director, Henry Art Gallery, University of Washington, Seattle.


Polaroids: Mapplethorpe

Event Dates

  • Exhibition 04.07.2009 — 13.09.2009

    A fascinating insight into Mapplethorpe’s formative years