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Finding aid for the Robert Mapplethorpe papers and photographs, circa 1850-2011, bulk 1970-1989
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Collection Overview
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The papers and photographs of Robert Mapplethorpe (1946-1989) span the artist's career, from his early drawings, collages and jewelry to his renowned photographic work in the 1970s and 1980s. The photographic material in the archive includes Polaroids, photographs, commercial commissions, test shots, and non-editioned prints from the same photography sessions as his editioned prints. Also included in the archive are films, personal and professional correspondence, studio documents, interviews, clippings, exhibition files, financial records, and collected items.
A key figure in late 20th-century photography, Robert Mapplethorpe created work with a distinctive tension between opposites: sacred and profane, mainstream and underground, light and dark. From his early Polaroid portraits, to his fashion photography and later controversial work, Mapplethorpe's photographs are well-ordered and emotionally restrained, with chaotic and sensuous elements beneath the surface.
317.0 linear feet (311 boxes, 13 flatfile folders, 3 rolls)
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Open for use by qualified researchers with the following exceptions. Polaroid test shots in Series II.D. are currently being digitized and are unavailable until digitization is complete. Audiovisual material is unavailable until it is reformatted. Several fragile items are restricted pending conservation treatment, as indicated in the container list. Sensitive material is sealed for the period of time indicated in the container list. Letters from Patti Smith to Mapplethorpe are sealed for Smith's lifetime. This collection contains content that may be offensive to some viewers and inappropriate for children.