Dive in the amazing and aesthetic world of Robert Mapplethorpe at the Grand Palais in a retrospective featuring 250 of his most famous pictures that best describe his quest for perfection. Enjoy! Parisianist.
A unique and original retrospective of Robert Mapplethorpe’s photographs.
Quality and originality of the pictures
A chance to admire the Grand Palais, a magnificent venue
Cloakroom is available in the museum
General explanations are in French and English
Entry to the exhibition is through gate H
A lot of nudity: not suitable for young children
Combined tickets with Musée Rodin (Expo Mapplethrope / Rodin) are sold
Robert Mapplethorpe was born in 1946 and has become one of the most famous American photographers, best known for his very stylish black and white portraits, his flower photographs and nude male artistic pictures. The latter, very crude and sometimes shocking, lead to the “culture wars” in the USA, a questioning on public financing for art. Mapplethorpe died of AIDS at age 42 in 1989 after founding the Robert Mapplethorpe foundation.
Located at entrance H of the Grand Palais (on the left side of the main outside staircase when facing the front of the Grand Palais), the Robert Mapplethorpe exhibition proudly displays 250 photographs, making it the biggest ever retrospective of Mapplethorpe’s work. The choice of pictures also emphasizes on the artistic side of his work, as opposed to the photographic side usually highlighted in other smaller exhibitions.
The exhibition is built “in reverse”, going from his latest work to his first Polaroid pictures taken when he was young. Opening the exhibition is his auto-portrait with a skull cane, a way to symbolize the tragic loss of such a great artist. The first part of the exhibition shows some of his finest sculptural pictures of both men and women’s bodies followed by pictures of his work on the geometrical side of the human body.
On the way to the back of the exhibition are pictures of details of the human body and natural objects. In one series of pictures, Mapplethorpe compares a man’s penis with a flower, explaining that sexuality and photography is the same. The only part of the exhibition where you will find really colourful pictures are the ones of flowers located all the way at the back of the hall, as well as the “chapel” with some religion-themed pictures.
The exhibition continues with a section on Mapplethorpe and his pictures of women. Among the many women that have been photographed by Mapplethorpe, singer Patti Smith and female bodybuilder Lisa Lyon are among those that have really inspired and held an important part in the photographer’s life. A series of portraits follows, with many faces you might recognize, such as Andy Warhol, Grace Jones and a young Arnold Schwarzenegger.
A small section of the exhibition is only accessible for people over 18. In that section, you will find the most provocative and crude pictures of Mapplethorpe, almost exclusively based on homosexuality and sadomasochism. Finally, the end of the exhibition exposes Mapplethorpe’s first Polaroid shots, where you will clearly see that his search for perfection and aesthetics throughout his career was already present in his younger years.
The exhibition is clearly focused on the artistic side of Mapplethorpe’s work, mostly based on the human body, but also with some pictures of flowers and religious items. It is not suitable for the people that are uncomfortable with erotic photographs or just not interested in aesthetic pictures. But for those who want to admire the beauty of the human body the way Mapplethorpe saw it, with his endless search for perfection and purity, this unique exhibition is a must see!