The Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) and the J. Paul Getty Trust recently announced their joint acquisition of art and archival materials by or associated with Robert Mapplethorpe. The vast majority of the acquisition comes in the form of a s gift from the Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation, and the remainder from funds provided by The David Geffen Foundation and the J. Paul Getty Trust.
The acquisition establishes Los Angeles as the center for the study of Mapplethorpe, gathering in one location the finest and most representative body of the artist’s work in conjunction with the definitive collection of related archival materials. The acquisition covers more than 2,000 works of art by the artist, including a print of virtually every photograph he editioned in silver gelatin, a large number of Polaroid works and unique works, artworks by Mapplethorpe’s contemporaries and the richest and most extensive documentation of his career, including personal correspondence with significant cultural figures of the period.
The J. Paul Getty Museum and LACMA will add well over 2,000 jointly owned works of art to their collections, and a substantial archive will reside at the Getty Research Institute. LACMA and the Getty are planning a collaborative series of monographic exhibitions, and additional plans are currently being developed to show and publish the work in the future.
This acquisition marks the first time that LACMA and the Getty have acquired jointly, and initiates a new collaboration for exhibitions, loans and scholarly exchange.
The LACMA portion of the purchase was made possible by a generous gift from The David Geffen Foundation.
The Mapplethorpe archive is representative of the artist’s entire career and legacy, and has the potential to act as a conduit to larger research topics about art in the 1980s, the confluence of cultural and political debate, and its interpretation through subsequent generations of artists such as Catherine Opie, Glenn Ligon, Elizabeth Peyton and others.
The archive is vast, containing almost 2,000 examples of editioned Mapplethorpe prints; over 200 unique works by Mapplethorpe (drawings, hand-painted collages and assemblages, some of which combine found objects with photographs or Polaroids), approximately 1,100 uneditioned silver gelatin prints, 100 Polaroid works, 120,000 negatives with 6,000 related contact sheets covering the artist’s fine-art work, portrait commissions and other photography; Mapplethorpe’s 1978 film Still Moving (featuring Patti Smith) and his 1984 video Lady (featuring Lisa Lyon); a selection of works by other artists that were owned by or otherwise associated with Mapplethorpe or his foundation (including photographs of Mapplethorpe or his artwork by contemporaries such as Lynn Davis); several hundred test prints and variations for editioned and non-editioned prints; and videotaped interviews with the artist.
Also included is an array of documents relating to the artist’s life and work: exhibition-related materials such as correspondence; press clippings; exhibition information; inventories; publications; documentation of the landmark 1990 Cincinnati trial (including video tapes and interviews); personal correspondence with the artist’s intimates and friends such as Patti Smith, Sam Wagstaff, John McKendry and other contemporaries; important documentation concerning Mapplethorpe’s artistic and commercial career, including original business records of his portrait commissions and commercial assignments and his editioned and unique art works; visual documentation of Mapplethorpe’s early installations, multi-media constructions and jewelry designs; over 3,500 Polaroids shot to document the composition, lighting and technical specifications of Mapplethorpe’s still lifes and portrait sittings; a complete library of exhibition catalogues and other publications reproducing Mapplethorpe images; and comprehensive media materials covering the NEA, The Corcoran Gallery of Art, and The Cincinnati Contemporary Art Center controversies that arose shortly after the artist died in 1989.
Most of these archival materials will reside at the Getty Research Institute.