Mapplethorpe was born and raised in Queens, a neighborhood he once described as “a good place to leave.”
At age sixteen he enrolled at Pratt Institute in Brooklyn—not a great distance away on the map, but quite a different world culturally.
In 1967 Mapplethorpe met Patti Smith, a newcomer to the city and an aspiring artist, and the two found their way into a diverse, gritty, brilliant downtown art scene. They moved to the Chelsea Hotel and became part of the group of artists, writers, and musicians who gathered at Max’s Kansas City.
In the early 1970s—through supporters such as his lover Sam Wagstaff, a well-respected curator and collector—Mapplethorpe gained entrée to uptown social circles, where he met potential patrons and portrait subjects. By the end of the decade, his work was being shown at the prestigious Robert Miller Gallery.
Navigating across these distinct realms, Mapplethorpe built his career, satisfied different aspects of his multifaceted nature, and assembled a pictorial record of the New York art world of the 1970s and 1980s.
It was a scene like no other...
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