I’m slightly embarrassed to say that I only recently got into Patti Smith when my housemate lent me her autobiography, Just Kids. I was blown away by the courage and creativity of Patti and her longtime collaborator/partner Mapplethorpe. The book contains images of some of his iconic black and white photography; his subjects include portraits of his artist and celebrity friends from the New York cultural scene in the 70s, male and female nudes, stunning still life images of flowers and intimate self portraits, as well as his controversial erotic photography.
This exhibition, another coup for the Bowes Museum following the excellent YSL retrospective this year, focusses on portraits of his influential friends – think Andy Warhol, Iggy Pop, David Hockney and Patti herself to name but a few. This body of work is especially relevant in the context of our current obsession with celebrity culture. The collection will also highlight the connections between the art of the painted portrait and the photographic with reference to specific works in the Museum’s permanent collection.
The exhibition is part of the ARTIST ROOMS tour programme – an inspirational collection of modern and contemporary art owned by Tate and National Galleries. The tour’s aim is to engage and inspire young people – to develop a greater understanding of Mapplethorpe’s work and the Musuem’s own collections. The experiences and reactions of young visitors will be recorded by the Artcasting project, a collaboration between the Museum, ARTIST ROOMS and the University of Edinburgh.
The exhibition will run from 28th November 2015 until 24 April 2016.