California Institutions Acquire Mapplethorpe Collection

Posted by David Ozanich — 8 Feb 2011


It's been a banner few months for Robert Mapplethorpe fans. His one-time companion Patti Smith won the National Book Award for her memoir "Just Kids" which chronicles their time together in New York in the 1970s. Across the pond, the Scissor Sisters are curating a show of his work. To cap it all off, it was announced yesterday that the J. Paul Getty Trust and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) have joined forces to acquire a collection of letters, negatives and prints by the master photographer "further strengthening California's position as a major center for 20th-century photography."

The Arts Beat blog reports:

The acquisition is the first time the two institutions have collected works of art to share, in a partnership they formed to compete more effectively against other major museums being considered by the Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation as homes for the collection. The foundation is donating the majority of the more than 2,000 photographs -- including Mapplethorpe silver-gelatin prints and Polaroid works -- and the Getty and the county museum, with help from the David Geffen Foundation, are buying the rest.

The foundation estimated the value of the entire collection -- which includes 120,000 negatives -- at more than $30 million.

The collection, which will be stored in the Getty's temperature-controlled archives, also includes documentation of the "landmark 1990 trial in which the Contemporary Arts Center of Cincinnati was acquitted of obscenity charges for including several Mapplethorpe photographs with sexual themes in an exhibition."

The Mapplethorpe Collection will join the collection of the artist's muse and companion Sam Wagstaff, a collector and curator whose archives are already owned by the Getty. Above, "Calla Lily (1988)," which is among the acquired works.

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