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Robert Mapplethorpe papers and photographs, circa 1850-2011, bulk 1970-1989

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Descriptive Summary
Biographical/Historical Note
Scope and Content of Collection
Indexing Terms
Related Material
Administrative Information
Other Finding Aids
Container List
Series I. Creative work, circa 1850-2009 (bulk 1960-1988)
Series I.A. Artworks by Robert Mapplethorpe, circa 1964-1988
Series I.B. Artworks by others, circa 1850-2009 (bulk 1969-1988)
Series I.C. Non-editioned prints, 1974-1989, 2008
Series I.D. Portfolios, circa 1970-2005
Series I.E. Commissioned and commercial works, 1970-1993, undated
Series I.F. Jewelry, 1970s
Series I.G. Films, 1978-1984
Series II. Photographic practice, circa 1975-2000
Series II.A. Card inventory of editioned prints, circa 1979-circa 1991
Series II.B. Shooting books, circa 1979-1989
Series II.C. Model releases, 1978-2000
Series II.D. Polaroid test shots, circa 1975-1989
Series III. Photographic documentation, 1969-circa 1989, undated
Series V. Exhibition files, 1977-1992, undated
Series VI. Interviews and documentaries, circa 1980-circa 1989, undated
Series VII. Financial and administrative files, 1964-1995, bulk 1975-1989, undated
Series VIII. Collections and miscellaneous items, circa 1880-1989, undated
Series IX. Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation, 1977-2011, undated
Series IX.A. Administrative files, 1989-circa 2011, undated
Series IX.B. Exhibition files, 1989-2011, undated
Series IX.C. Press materials and published works, 1989-2003, undated
Series IV. Correspondence, 1969-1991, undated
Series IV.A. Personal and professional, 1969-1991, undated
Series IV.B. General correspondence files, 1973-1990, undated
Mapplethorpe (Robert) papers

Scope and Content of Collection

The papers and photographs of Robert Mapplethorpe document the career of the prolific artist from 1970 until his death in 1989 and his legacy in the following decades. Encompassing the full range of Mapplethorpe's production, including newly-discovered early drawings, assemblages, jewelry, little-known Polaroids, test shots, non-editioned prints, commercial commissions, and films, the collection demonstrates Mapplethorpe's range of technique and his commitment to a personal vision throughout his life. The archive also provides documentation of Mapplethorpe's working processes and personal and professional relationships through correspondence, studio records, interviews, clippings, ephemera, exhibition files, and financial records.

The Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation maintained and added to the archive from 1989 to 2011. These later additions include archival documents, ephemera and clippings collected by the Foundation, as well as records generated by the Foundation in the course of its work promoting Mapplethorpe's legacy with exhibitions and publications. Not included in the archive are approximately 1,900 of Mapplethorpe's limited-edition prints and other works of art housed at the J. Paul Getty Museum and jointly owned with the Los Angeles County Museum of Art.

Series I contains Mapplethorpe's creative output and the artworks he acquired from others. Works by Mapplethorpe include photographs, Polaroids, three-dimensional objects, paintings, and cut-outs. Most photographs are gelatin silver prints and are predominantly self-portraits or portraits of Mapplethorpe's contemporaries. Works by other artists are mostly photographs of Mapplethorpe, and some photographs also feature Patti Smith, Sam Wagstaff, David Croland, Milton Moore, Jack Walls, Lisa Lyon, Francesco and Alba Clemente, Nick Rhodes, and Keith Haring. Other photographs document Mapplethorpe's artworks and jewelry designs. Also included are approximately 1000 non-editioned prints from the same photo sessions as Mapplethorpe's editioned prints; commissioned and commercial work; jewelry; films; and three portfolios featuring some of his earlier prints. Series II documents how Mapplethorpe worked as a photographer. Included are over 3,000 Polaroids that he took as test shots for his editioned prints, an index card inventory of 2,080 prints, model release forms, shooting books that were used to record editioned print information, and three spiral notebooks containing 418 Polaroid test shots.

Series III comprises photographs documenting Mapplethorpe's work. Included are gallery installation shots, Polaroids, and slides. Series IV includes Mapplethorpe's personal and professional correspondence with friends, models, clients, museums, galleries, and fans. Correspondents include Sam Wagstaff, Lisa Lyon, John McKendry, and Patti Smith. (Note: All letters from Patti Smith to Robert Mapplethorpe are sealed for Smith's lifetime.) Series V contains files related to exhibitions that took place during Mapplethorpe's lifetime. Documents include exhibition reports, press materials, ephemera, posters, and related videos. In Series VI are several documentaries and interviews with Mapplethorpe and others. Series VII contains fincancial and administrative records documenting Mapplethorpe's studio operations. Series VIII consists of items from Mapplethorpe's personal photograph collection of daguerreotypes, vintage pornography, ephemera, his zodiac chart, and other miscellaneous items.

Series IX comprises materials that the Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation created and collected after the artist's death in 1989. Files include correspondence with museums, galleries, and publishers; exhibition files and administrative records; and 27 boxes of collected press clippings related to the censorship controversy and trial in Cincinnati in the early 1990s. Also included are videos of news footage and press coverage of the controversy.


Arranged in nine series:
Series I. Creative work, circa 1850-2009, undated;
Series II. Photographic practice, 1978-2000, undated;
Series III. Photographic documentation, circa 1969-circa 1989, undated;
Series IV. Correspondence, 1969-1991, undated;
Series V. Exhibition files, 1977-1992, undated;
Series VI. Interviews and documentaries, circa 1980-1989, undated;
Series VII. Financial records,1964-1995, undated;
Series VIII. Collections and personal items, circa 1880-1989, undated;
Series IX. Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation, 1989-2011, undated.

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