An exhibition by world-famous and controversial photographer Robert Mapplethorpe is going on display at Old Gala House this summer, in collaboration with National Galleries Scotland and Tate Galleries in London.
Mapplethorpe was an American artist known for pushing the boundaries of photography, both in his subject choice and technique. He is almost exclusively remembered for his opinion-splitting and often explicit images.
Phoebe Stewart, assistant curator at Old Gala House, told us: “I am thrilled to be showcasing and curating an exhibition of Mapplethorpe’s work this year. This is an extraordinary collection of work, and I hope it will inspire artistic debate and intrigue among our visitors to the gallery.”
Robert Mapplethorpe was born in 1946 in Queens, New York, and after acquiring a Polaroid camera in 1970, he began shooting his circle of friends and acquaintances — artists, musicians, socialites like Andy Warhol and Patti Smith, and more controversially pornographic film stars, and members of the S&M underground.
“The resulting photographs are shocking for their content and remarkable for their technical and formal mastery,” reads the Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation website.
“I don’t like that particular word ‘shocking’,” the site quotes him as saying. “I’m looking for the unexpected. I’m looking for things I’ve never seen before … I was in a position to take those pictures. I felt an obligation to do them.”
Mapplethorpe died of AIDS in 1989, but his vast, provocative, and powerful body of work has established him as one of the most important artists of the 20th century, and today he is represented in galleries and museums around the world.
In 2006, a Mapplethorpe print of Andy Warhol was auctioned for $643,200.
“It’s a huge deal for the museum service,” Ms Stewart said: “we haven’t shown anything of this scale and magnitude before. Mapplethorpe is an internationally renowned artist. It’s a very exciting prospect for the Borders.”
The exhibition of 64 photographs will run for three months, from May 11 to August 11, and will include eight self-portraits of Mapplethorpe, which have never been on display before.
“We will be the first venue to show these works,” she added. “it’s quite an exciting adventure for us.”
Mapplethorpe’s oeuvre has a Border connection: “We would like to exhibit Mapplethorpe’s portrait of Lord Glenconner from Innerleithen, because of the local link,” Ms Stewart revealed.
Despite the artist’s international fame, entry the Gala exhibition will be free.
“We want to encourage the younger generation to become interested,” she explained. “We’re currently applying for more money for workshops for marginalised groups, because Mapplethorpe was a bit of an outsider, a rebel, always on the edge of society.
“His work was very controversial at the time,” she said, “and even today in 2013, people will still find the nude males difficult to view.
“The photographs can be quite raunchy, but his work is very beautiful.”
Mapplethorpe’s works are from Artists Rooms: a collection of modern and contemporary art donated by Anthony d’Offay to the Tate and the National Galleries of Scotland for the nation.
The Artist Rooms tour is showing at 17 UK museums and galleries in 2013.