Grand Palais and Musée Rodin. Until July 13.
The city of Paris is commemorating the 25 years since the death of the great New York artist Robert Mapplethorpe (1946-1989) with two exhibitions, at the Grand Palais and Musée Rodin.
The Grand Palais has amassed over 250 works which sum up Mapplethorpe’s life-long career, the different phases it went through, and what was going through his mind when he pressed the shutter release on his Polaroid or Hasselblad. He was obsessed with beauty and with the idea of a world without limits; he studied the power of nature in the human body to give us unforgettable images of faces, hands, naked bodies, as well as a series of photographs of flowers that add a touch of delicacy to his work.
The creative aspect of his photography goes hand in hand with the technical — he was always aware of the latest advances in optical technology and film development. In fact, the exhibition reveals how his film formats evolved through time: from silver gelatin for his first black-and-white images, his colour Polaroids, the photo-engravings of the later years and even his paper- and linen-printed platinum copies. His large-scale formats are key in understanding his image compositions. For the artist in search of perfection, it was the end result that was truly important, not the photograph itself.
Complementary to the Grand Palais exhibition, the Musée Rodin, in conjunction with the Mapplethorpe Foundation, has organized another exhibition with the aim of creating a dialogue between these two great artists. The exhibition consists of 50 sculptures by Rodin together with 102 of Mapplethorpe’s photos, taking visitors on a journey towards the beauty of the human body. Mapplethorpe’s role here is that of an image sculptor: through strongly marked contrasts of light and the refined poses of his models — reminding us of the great Masters of the Italian Renaissance — he achieves an almost otherworldly corporealness.
The heterodoxy of Mapplethorpe’s work has sparked numerous discussions on the limits of art. This retrospective provides a unique opportunity to understand how an American artist who began his career doing collages with other people’s photos eventually became one of the 20th century’s art icons. Through his self-portraits, the artist himself clearly expressed his personal commitment to the search for new worlds, where everything is possible and nothing is forbidden. "I'm looking for the unexpected. I'm looking for things I've never seen before…”
The exhibition at the Grand Palais includes a room with perhaps his best-known works, those of a S&M nature — this room is not accessible to minors. Not that these works are not worth seeing, on the contrary they contain part of the artist’s essence. All his work is full of eroticism, sensuality, subtlety.
An unmissable exhibition! Advanced booking is highly recommended.