january 14, 2019 - Solomon Guggenheim NY

Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum Presents “Implicit Tensions: Mapplethorpe Now”

Solomon R. #guggenheim Museum Presents “Implicit Tensions: Mapplethorpe Now”

Yearlong Exhibition in Two Parts Celebrates the Sustained Legacy of #robertmapplethorpe and His Impact on Contemporary Photography

In 2019, the Solomon R. #guggenheim Museum will present a yearlong exhibition conceived in two sequential parts honoring the groundbreaking work and sustained legacy of #robertmapplethorpe (1946–1989), one of the most critically acclaimed yet controversial American artists of the late twentieth century. Implicit Tensions: Mapplethorpe Now will be on view in the museum’s Mapplethorpe Gallery on Tower Level 4 from January 25–July 10, 2019 and July 24, 2019–January 5, 2020. The exhibition is organized by Lauren Hinkson, Associate Curator, Collections, and Susan Thompson, Associate Curator, with Levi Prombaum, Curatorial Assistant, Collections.

The #guggenheim Museum holds one of the most comprehensive public repositories of the work of #robertmapplethorpe in the world, having received a generous gift of approximately two hundred photographs and unique objects from the #robertmapplethorpe Foundation in 1993. This gift also catalyzed the development of the museum’s photography collection and inaugurated the Photography Council, an acquisitions committee dedicated to actively building and strengthening the Guggenheim’s collection of work in photography and new media by both established and emerging artists. Thirty years after the artist’s death, Implicit Tensions: Mapplethorpe Now celebrates the full range of Mapplethorpe’s extraordinary artistic contributions as well as the impact of the Mapplethorpe Foundation’s gift on the museum’s photography collection and exhibition program.

The first phase of the exhibition will feature an installation of highlights from the Guggenheim’s rich collection of Mapplethorpe holdings, including selections from the artist’s early Polaroids, collages, and mixed-media constructions; iconic, classicizing photographs of male and female nudes, flowers, and statuary; portraits of artists, celebrities, and acquaintances; explicit depictions of the S&M underground; and some of Mapplethorpe’s best-known self-portraits.

The second phase will address the artist’s resounding impact on the field of contemporary portraiture and self-representation and aims to reflect the many complex conversations surrounding Mapplethorpe’s work that have arisen over the past three decades. In addition to a focused selection of Mapplethorpe photographs, the second phase will also feature contemporary artists from the Guggenheim’s collection who either actively engage with and reference Mapplethorpe’s work or whose approach to picturing the body and exploring identity through portraiture finds resonances with Mapplethorpe’s formal and social strategies. These artists include Rotimi Fani-Kayode (b. 1955, Lagos, Nigeria; d. 1989, London), Lyle Ashton Harris (b. 1965, Bronx, NY), Glenn Ligon (b. 1960, Bronx, NY), Zanele Muholi (b. 1972, Umlazi, South Africa), Catherine Opie (b. 1961, Sandusky, OH), and Paul Mpagi Sepuya (b. 1982, San Bernardino, CA).

The Leadership Committee for Implicit Tensions: Mapplethorpe Now is gratefully acknowledged for its support with special thanks to Stein Erik Hagen-The Canica Art Collection; Angelo K H Chan and Frederick Wertheim; Tian-Tzy Li and Julio Herrera; Lisa and John Miller; Lauren and Scott Pinkus; Ann and Mel Schaffer; and Patty and Howard Silverstein.

Additional funding is provided by the Solomon R. #guggenheim Museum’s Photography Council.


Robert Mapplethorpe was born in 1946 in Floral Park, Queens, and earned a BFA from Pratt Institute, Brooklyn, in 1970. His work has been the subject of numerous solo exhibitions including Robert Mapplethorpe: Photographs, Chrysler Museum of Art, Norfolk, VA (1978); Robert Mapplethorpe, Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris (1983); Robert Mapplethorpe, Whitney Museum of American Art, NY (1988); Robert Mapplethorpe: The Perfect Moment, Institute of #contemporaryart, Philadelphia (1988-89, traveled to Museum of #contemporaryart, Chicago; Washington Project for the Arts, Washington, D.C.; Wadsworth Atheneum, Hartford, CT; University Art Museum, University of California, Berkeley; Contemporary Arts Center, Cincinnati; and Institute of #contemporaryart, Boston); Robert Mapplethorpe: Self-Portraits, Solomon R. #guggenheim Museum, #newyork (1993); Robert Mapplethorpe and the Classical Tradition: Photographs and Mannerist Prints, Solomon R. #guggenheim Museum, #newyork (2005); and Robert Mapplethorpe: The Perfect Medium, J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, and Los Angeles County Museum of Art (2016). Mapplethorpe died in 1989 due to complications from AIDS.


Founded in 1937, the Solomon R. #guggenheim Foundation is dedicated to promoting the understanding and appreciation of art, primarily of the modern and contemporary periods, through exhibitions, education programs, research initiatives, and publications. The #guggenheim network that began in the 1970s when the Solomon R. #guggenheim Museum, #newyork, was joined by the Peggy #guggenheim Collection, Venice, has since expanded to include the #guggenheim Museum Bilbao (opened 1997) and the #guggenheim Abu Dhabi (currently in development). The #guggenheim Foundation continues to forge international collaborations that celebrate #contemporaryart, architecture, and design within and beyond the walls of the museum, including the #guggenheim Social Practice initiative, the #guggenheim UBS MAP Global Art Initiative, and The Robert H. N. Ho Family Foundation Chinese Art Initiative. More information about the Solomon R. #guggenheim Foundation can be found at guggenheim.org.