Understanding Robert Mapplethorpe through Patti Smith | Jacket Copy | Los Angeles Times


On Monday the J. Paul Getty Trust and Los Angeles County Museum of Art announced the joint acquisition of the works of Robert Mapplethorpe. The 200 unique artworks, 2000 photographs, 3,500 Polaroids and 120,000 negatives are worth in the neighborhood of $30 million.

In addition to the artworks, Mapplethorpe’s correspondence is included in the acquisition. What will probably be of most interest to history are the documents related to the 1990 “obscenity” trial in Cincinnati, a flashpoint in the era’s culture wars, that stemmed from a posthumous show of Mapplethorpe’s photography that included homoerotic and sadomasochistic images. But pop culture fans may be more interested in Mapplethorpe’s personal correspondence with rocker Patti Smith, whose memoir of her relationship with Mapplethorpe, “Just Kids,” won the 2010 National Book Award for nonfiction.

For mire on the controversial Mapplethorpe show in Cincinnati, and subsequent equivalent causes célèbres, have a look at my post on Cearta considering whether galleries should show offensive art and my follow-ups here and here on this site.