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Major Acquisition > The Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation Gift

In 1992 the Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation named the Guggenheim Foundation the recipient of approximately two hundred of Mapplethorpe’s finest photographs and unique objects. Realized in several stages between 1993 and 1998, the gift made the Guggenheim among the most comprehensive public repositories of this important American artist’s work. The selection spans every period and area of Mapplethorpe’s oeuvre, from his early Polaroids, collages, and mixed-media constructions to his iconic, classicizing photographs of male and female nudes, flowers, and statuary; his portraits of artists, celebrities, and acquaintances; and his more explicit depictions of the S&M underground. Over twenty of the artist’s best-known self-portraits are represented, from a series of 1972 Polaroids to his haunting Self-Portrait (1988), taken a year before his premature death of AIDS in 1989.

The gift—which included a major grant—inaugurated the Guggenheim’s photography collection and exhibition program. Coming in the early 1990s, at a time when photography had already begun to assume the central role it occupies today in contemporary art practice, this new direction in the collection allowed the Guggenheim to maintain a leading role in defining and preserving the most important art of the present.



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