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Jennifer Bass
The Kinsey Institute

Last modified: Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Mapplethorpe Foundation donates photographs to The Kinsey Institute

Oct. 11, 2011

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- The Kinsey Institute for Research in Sex, Gender and Reproduction announced today a gift of 30 photographs by Robert Mapplethorpe, one of the best known and most influential photographers of the 20th century.

Mapplethorpe Image

Embrace, 1982, copyright © The Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation, Courtesy of The Kinsey Institute®

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This gift from The Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation includes arresting portraits and powerful images documenting the sexual lives of people in Mapplethorpe's circle in the 1970s and early 1980s. With this donation, The Kinsey Institute, the premier research center for human sexuality, now joins an esteemed group of museums as a major repository for the work of this important photographer.

"This generous gift not only adds substantially to the breadth of The Kinsey Institute's photography collection, but it also provides a new body of work for analysis by scholars in the arts, social sciences, gender and cultural studies, and other disciplines," said Karen Hanson, provost and executive vice president at Indiana University Bloomington, home of The Kinsey Institute.

The renowned Kinsey Institute Research Collections, established more than 60 years ago by pioneering sex researcher Alfred Kinsey, encompass an extensive array of print materials, film and video, archival material, fine art, artifacts, and photographs. The Fine Art Photography Collection is considered a particular strength of the collection, but included no Mapplethorpe works until now. Its holdings include major collections of work by Wilhelm von Gloeden and George Platt Lynes as well as prints by such distinguished artists as Arnold Newman, Irving Penn, Judy Dater, Clarence John Laughlin, Pierre et Gilles, Herb Ritts, and Joel-Peter Witkin. In recent years the scope and depth of the collection has expanded to embrace a wide range of contemporary photographers.

Mapplethorpe Image

Snakeman, 1981, copyright © The Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation, Courtesy of The Kinsey Institute®

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"The Foundation Board is particularly pleased that a large group of the artist's most memorable and most difficult works will be available to researchers, students and the public at an institution that has a storied record of academic freedom," said Michael Stout, president of The Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation.

Robert Mapplethorpe

Robert Mapplethorpe (1946-1989) was born in Queens, New York, and studied drawing, painting and sculpture at Pratt Institute, Brooklyn. Influenced by artists such as Joseph Cornell and Marcel Duchamp, he experimented with various materials in mixed-media collages, including images cut from books and magazines and his own photographs made with a Polaroid camera acquired in 1970. In 1975, he acquired a Hasselblad medium-format camera and began shooting his friends and acquaintances: artists, musicians, socialites, pornographic film stars and members of the S&M underground.

In the late '70s, Mapplethorpe grew increasingly interested in documenting the New York S&M scene. The resulting photographs -- "things I've never seen before," he said -- are shocking for their content and remarkable for their technical and formal mastery. These photographs constitute the majority of works donated to The Kinsey Institute.

Mapplethorpe Image

Self portrait, 1980, copyright © The Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation

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"While many people admire and collect Mapplethorpe's elegant flower studies, handsome portraits and classical nudes, his photographs of New York's S&M scene of the 1970s and 1980s will be remembered as the work that broke new ground and defined his artistic persona," Malcolm Daniel, curator in charge of photographs at The Metropolitan Museum of Art and a Trustee of The Kinsey Institute, said. "They still remain shocking for most people, and many institutions would hesitate to select the sort of pictures that, appropriately, have been chosen for The Kinsey Institute. Nonetheless, these are the artist's works that will have lasting importance."

Significance of Kinsey Institute Gift

The Kinsey Institute works toward advancing sexual health and knowledge worldwide. For more than 60 years, the institute has been a trusted source for investigating and informing the world about critical issues in sex, gender and reproduction.

The Mapplethorpe photographs now in The Kinsey Institute collection not only represent the work of a uniquely talented artist, but they also serve as documentation of life in America after the sexual revolution of the 1960s and before the profound impact of the AIDS epidemic in the 1980s. In the words of Robert Mapplethorpe, "I was in a position to take those pictures -- I was rather obsessive about it. They were mostly friends of mine. It was the early '70s. You couldn't do it today." (interview in Newsweek, July 25, 1988).

Mapplethorpe photographs are found at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, the J. Paul Getty Museum and the Getty Research Institute, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum of Art, the Whitney Museum of American Art, and the Museum of Modern Art, among many other institutions internationally; the collection at The Kinsey Institute is the only major collection of his work in a museum or university in the Midwest. Mapplethorpe works are represented by a number of prominent galleries around the world, and by the Sean Kelly Gallery-New York, in North and South America.

Robert Mapplethorpe's photographs will be available for viewing at The Kinsey Institute by scholars and other qualified researchers by appointment. The institute intends to exhibit the collection of Mapplethorpe photographs at a later date.

The Kinsey Institute receives support from the Office of the Vice Provost for Research at IU Bloomington (OVPR). OVPR is dedicated to supporting ongoing faculty research and creative activity and developing new multidisciplinary initiatives to enhance opportunities for federal, state, and private research funding.

The Mapplethorpe Foundation

The Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation was founded by the artist 10 months before his death in 1989. The foundation has two mandates -- to further the recognition of photography as a significant art form and to support medical research in the area of AIDS and HIV infection. For 22 years, The Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation has funded the publication of numerous books on fine art photography, supported many photography exhibitions and acquisitions, and provided both monetary grants and gifts of Mapplethorpe prints to art institutions around the world. The foundation preserves the archive of Mapplethorpe's work, maintaining the editions he established and facilitating loans of his photographs for exhibition. The Mapplethorpe Foundation provides grants in the field of HIV/AIDS research, including financial support to the American Foundation for AIDS Research and the AIDS Community Research Initiative of America. It has established important research facilities and programs at Harvard Medical School, Beth Israel Medical Center in New York, and St. Vincent's Hospital and Medical Center of New York.