This retrospective offers one of the most comprehensive looks to date at Mapplethorpe’s career, from his initial training in art to his rise to fame and his legacy.
With close to three hundred works on view, chiefly black‐and‐white photographs but also colour prints, Polaroids and his famed X, Y and Z portfolios, all three on display in their entirety, as well as films and various artifacts (books, album covers, archival materials), the MMFA combines the two exhibitions presented in 2016 at the J. Paul Getty Museum and Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA). There is also an accompanying educational exhibition ÊTRE/AIMER – BE/LOVED.
FOCUS: PERFECTION – ROBERT MAPPLETHORPE covers the artist’s entire career, from his early production in the late 1960sto his untimely death in 1989 from AIDS. It traces the photographer’s
working methods and techniques, presenting the improvisational, experimental aspects of his
practice alongside the aesthetic perfection of his prints. The works on display provide new context
for understanding the key genres that Mapplethorpe pursued: portraits – friends and celebrities (Deborah Harry, Isabella Rossellini, Patti Smith, Andy Warhol…) — and self‐portraits, the nude and still life. His personal connection to sitters, his ability to manage a successful studio, and his ambition to elevate photography to the status of contemporary art are demonstrated through rarely seen correspondence and other ephemera.
“I am looking for perfection in form. I do that with portraits. I do it with cocks. I do it with flowers.”
“The exhibition Focus: Perfection – Robert Mapplethorpe pays tribute to an artist who, like a chronicler in search of beauty, chose to express himself through photography. As a result of his many friendships and professional encounters, he was able to capture the very essence of his time. His quest for perfection led him to compose neoclassical images, at times of controversial subjects, that helped legitimize photography as a form of contemporary art in its own right. Even now, his work fascinates collectors, a number of them Canadians who have generously lent us works from their collections” explained Diane Charbonneau, Curator of Modern and Contemporary Decorative Arts and Photography at the MMFA.
In keeping with the values of a humanist museum that advocatesforsocial inclusion, the Museum is hosting a variety of educational and cultural activitiesrelated to diversity in connection with the exhibition FOCUS: PERFECTION – ROBERT MAPPLETHORPE:
– In collaboration with the organizations GRIS‐Montréal and Arc‐en‐ciel d’Afrique, the educational exhibition ÊTRE/AIMER – BE/LOVED, set up around the Michal and Renata Hornstein Pavilion’s colonnade, combines works from the Museum’s collection with the words of members of the LGBTQ community and their allies. It invites visitors of all ages to think about diversity and the universal need to love and to be loved. Facilitators will be on hand from time to time for discussions with the public, and colourful posters will be distributed to promote awareness about diversity.
-During the week of December 1, World AIDS Day, lectures, conferences and educational activities will be presented. Moreover, all social and community organizations working with Montreal’s LGBTQ community or involved in the fight against AIDS will be invited to visit the exhibition and take part in the educational activities at the Museum throughout its run.
– This fall, artists, teachers, legal experts and art historians will take a look at Robert Mapplethorpe’s work and legacy, as well as the censorship of art, in a series of lectures and special events. Among others, the Museum will host Dovanna Pagowski and Robert Sherman, who modelled for the photographer; the artist’s youngest brother, Edward Mapplethorpe, an artist and photographer who also acted as his assistant; and, as part of POP Montreal, the legendary musician, composer and producer John Cale, a founding member of the rock group the Velvet Underground.
– On the film side, the Museum will present, for the first time on a big screen in Canada, the documentary recently produced by HBO, Mapplethorpe: Look at the Pictures. In addition, in collaboration with FIFA+, films on contemporaries of Mapplethorpe, such as Sally Mann and Andres Serrano, whose work also stirred up controversy, will be included in the programme.
– As part of Festival international de la littérature (FIL), the Museum will screen Patti Smith: Dream of Life, a film that documents eleven years in the life of the rock icon who was Robert Mapplethorpe’s companion and close collaborator. Actors Francis Ducharme and Marie‐France Lambert will perform a reading of excerpts from Just Kids, Patti Smith’s award‐winning account of her relationship with the photographer.
FOCUS: PERFECTION – ROBERT MAPPLETHORPE
September 10, 2016, to January 22, 2017
The Montreal Museum of Fine Arts
Michal and Renata Hornstein Pavilion – Level 2