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Major retrospective of Robert Mapplethorpe's work on view at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art
Robert Mapplethorpe, Self-Portrait, 1980, gelatin silver print, promised gift of the Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation to the J. Paul Getty Trust and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, © Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation.

LOS ANGELES, CA.- The Los Angeles County Museum of Art presents Robert Mapplethorpe: The Perfect Medium, a major retrospective examining the work and career of one of the most influential visual artists of the 20th century. Robert Mapplethorpe: The Perfect Medium is co-organized by LACMA and the J. Paul Getty Museum. In a historic collaboration, the two institutions trace the artist’s working methods and materials, presenting the improvisational, experimental aspects of his practice alongside the refined perfection of his prints. The works on display provide new context for understanding the key genres that Mapplethorpe pursued: portraiture, the nude, and still life. His personal connections to sitters, his ability to manage a successful studio, and his ambition to elevate photography to the status of contemporary art will be demonstrated through rarely seen correspondence, books, and other ephemera, including those from the artist’s archive held by the Getty Research Institute.

LACMA’s presentation (March 20–July 31, 2016) focuses on Mapplethorpe’s working methods, sources, and creative processes—the experimental and performative aspects of his work—while the J. Paul Getty Museum (March 15–July 31, 2016) highlights the artist’s disciplined studio practice, figure studies, and legacy. Between the two museums, more than 300 works by Mapplethorpe will are on view, making this one of the largest-ever presentations of his work. The objects on view in Robert Mapplethorpe: The Perfect Medium are drawn almost entirely from the landmark joint acquisition of art and archival materials made in 2011 by the J. Paul Getty Trust and LACMA from The Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation.

"4 years ago LACMA and the Getty came together to jointly acquire the art and archives of Robert Mapplethorpe," said Michael Govan, LACMA CEO and Wallis Annenberg Director. "It has been an exciting collaboration ever since, as our researchers, conservators, and curators have all spent time with this trove of Mapplethorpe's art. Now, we are glad to present this large-scale joint exhibition to Los Angeles and the world."

“Through this historic collaboration, the LACMA and J. Paul Getty Museum exhibitions offer a new perspective on this influential artist,” said Britt Salvesen, curator and head of the Wallis Annenberg Photography department. “Robert Mapplethorpe: The Perfect Medium reveals the rich resources of the Mapplethorpe archive, which provides a broader context for the iconic images that brought him fame. Mapplethorpe’s refined style challenged viewers to consider his portraits, flowers, and sexually explicit images as equal expressions of a personal vision. His drive to capture the perfect moment is the core of his art.”

Following its Los Angeles debut, Robert Mapplethorpe: The Perfect Medium will travel internationally beginning with the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts in Canada (September 10, 2016–January 15, 2017), the Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, Australia, (October 28, 2017–February 4, 2018), and another international venue. This is the first major traveling retrospective in North America since the landmark exhibition The Perfect Moment, organized in 1988 by the Institute of Contemporary Art in Philadelphia.

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March 28, 2016

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