Robert Mapplethorpe: The Magic in the Muse

28 Nov 2015 – 24 Apr 2016

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The Bowes Museum

Barnard Castle
England, United Kingdom


Travel Information

  • Bus Services from Barnard Castle from Darlington (Arriva 75, 76 and 70), Bishop Auckland (Arriva 80) and Richmond (Arriva 79)
  • 17 miles from Darlington rail station on the East coast main line.
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The Bowes Museum is pleased to present the work of renowned American photographer Robert Mapplethorpe.


The works in the exhibition are drawn from the collection of ARTIST ROOMS, owned by Tate and the National Galleries of Scotland, which holds one of the most significant collections of Mapplethorpe’s photographs in the world. 

Mapplethorpe (1946–89) is known for a vast, provocative and powerful body of work which has established him as one of the most important artists of the late twentieth century. His exquisitely composed black and white photographs are remarkable as much for their technical virtuosity as for their sometimes controversial subject matter.  His work has often been described as a unique combination of beauty and salaciousness. 

Portraiture was central to his creative output, and Mapplethorpe established his reputation in the 1970s and 80s with photographs of his circle of friends and contemporaries from the New York cultural scene– artists, musicians, socialites, and members of the New York underground. The exhibition, which opens at The Bowes Museum on 28 November 2015, will concentrate on the concepts of musicians, artists and classical poses and feature a selection of portraits of these influential figures, including Iggy Pop, Andy Warhol, David Hockney and Arnold Schwarzenegger, as well as Mapplethorpe’s close companion, singer and poet, Patti Smith,

It will open up a dialogue between the work and contemporary society’s increasing fascination with celebrity culture, the concept of the growing sense of the self, and the powers of advertising and self-promotion through imagery. It will also highlight connections between the art of the photographic and the painted portrait by referencing specific works found in The Bowes Museum’s permanent collection.

Mapplethorpe explored a range of subject matter and themes in his work: from intimate self-portraits and studio portraits of artists and celebrities, to celebrated studies of the human figure, and beautifully composed still lifes – images that sought perfection in form, simultaneously challenging and adhering to classical aesthetic standards. 

The works on display are taken from ARTIST ROOMS, an inspirational collection of modern and contemporary art acquired for the nation by Tate and National Galleries of Scotland in 2008 through the generosity of Anthony d'Offay with assistance from the National Heritage Memorial Fund, the Art Fund and the Scottish and British Governments. The ARTIST ROOMS tour programme, now in its seventh year, is showing at 17 museums and galleries across the UK in 2015. The tour is supported by the National Lottery through Arts Council England and through the continued support of the Art Fund.

D’Offay’s vision for ARTIST ROOMS was that great modern and contemporary art would be available to audiences nationwide, especially to young people to inspire creativity. Continuing with this theme The Bowes Museum wants to engage young audiences through a series of events linked to the exhibition in order to inspire new audiences and create a greater appreciation and understanding of Mapplethorpe’s work and the Museum’s own collections. 

All under 25s will be able to enter free of charge by pre-registering here>

Information on both the ARTIST ROOMS collection and the touring programme can be found at www.artistrooms.org. For further information about ARTIST ROOMS On Tour please visit www.artfund.org/artistrooms. To see the full ARTIST ROOMS collection please visit tate.org.ukand nationalgalleries.org

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Robert Mapplethorpe


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