Wednesday, 7 August 2013

Piercing Through

Who wouldn't want to spend their birthday like Robert Mapplethorpe did in 1971?

"Yves Saint Laurent and Pierre Bergé took Robert to dinner and then to the Rive Gauche boutique and let him pick out anything in the store. He chose a simple black shirt. He said it was the cheapest thing in the store, but that's what he wanted… 
Later that night Loulou de la Falaise took him to a strip show, and they drank champagne and talked until 5:00am."  

Untitled (Self-portrait with Loulou de la Falaise), 1971

I had no idea Mapplethorpe used to be in with the European fashion crowd. The link between him and them was his boyfriend David Croland: The socialite-model and friend of Andy W introduced the artist to the who-is-who of Paris, bringing in many a lucrative commission for French and Italian Vogue.
David Croland by Robert, Polaroid, 1971

Now Croland is playing connector again: Thanks to him, the Allison Jacques Gallery  in London is putting on the exhibition "Robert Mapplethorpe: Fashion Show". On paper the photos have all the right ingredients: a pudgy Karl Lagerfeld, a body-painted Grace Jones, some bare breats for Italian Vogue. And yet these commercial works don't quite convince (click here to see all images).

Stripped of New York-rawness, what remains in most of these is the stiff code of 1980's posing. One cannot blame Mapplethorpe for wanting to make money, but the works only reveal what we knew before: that conventional glamour was never his cup of tea. The precursor of grunge was a perpetual pusher of borders, not a fashionista.
And the proof hung proudest from his pierced nipple. Nowadays, that would be Saint Laurent style.

"Robert Having His Nipple Pierced" - Documentary excerpt - here in English

"Robert Mapplethorpe: Fashion Show", at the Alison Jacques Gallery 11 September - 5 October 2013

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