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Mapplethorpe: A biography

By Patricia Morrisroe

Robert Mapplethorpe was among the most controversial figures in the contemporary art world, causing shock and awe in equal measure. This is his story.

While some of Mapplethorpe’s photographs were praised for their startlingly beautiful composition, others were condemned for their explicit sexuality. In Mapplethorpe: A Biography, Patricia Morrisroe chronicles the development of the man and his art through four decades of the American cultural scene.

Based on conversations with literally hundreds of people who knew the photographer during various periods of his life – as Catholic schoolboy, military cadet, free-spirited hippie, sexual explorer, art world enfant terrible and New York society figure – the book paints a vivid, powerful and insightful portrait and will stand as the definitive exploration of the life and times of one of the most censored and celebrated photographers of the twentieth century.His long and very close relationship with iconic singer/songwriter Patti Smith, first as lovers and then – once Mapplethorpe came out as gay – as friends, underpins the story, and casts a fascinating glimpse into the art scene in 80s New York.

This biography was written with the full endorsement of Mapplethorpe himself, and he gave extensive interviews to the author shortly before his death from AIDS in 1989. It is essential reading for anyone interested in contemporary art and society.

‘Thoroughly engrossing … she has succeeded in re-creating the photographer’s world of light and dark … as mesmerizing as Mapplethorpe’s stare in his self-portraits’ – Washington Post

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