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Robert Mapplethorpe (American, 1946-1989)


Birth Place: New York City (New York state, United States)


How much are original Robert Mapplethorpe photographs worth?

Robert Mapplethorpe is one of the most important photographers of the 20th century, his photographic prints can be worth anywhere from a thousand dollars to upwards of a hundred thousand dollars for major work. The most ever paid for a Robert Mapplethorpe gelatin silver print in the United States is $131,450 for the piece Calla Lily (1984) which sold on June 9th, 2010 from Heritage Auctions. In 2017, a self-portrait by Mapplethorpe sold for 450,000 pounds in England (roughly $560,000 USD) making it the most expensive Mapplethorpe ever sold. 

Who was Robert Mapplethorpe?

Robert Mapplethorpe was a professional photographer whose subjects tended toward the burgeoning S&M and gay communities in the 1980s and 1990s. Mapplethorpe studied painting at the Pratt Institute in Brooklyn and in 1968, he met the singer/poet Patti Smith, whom he later photographed for her album covers. His initial interest in photography took the form of collages from photographs he found, but in 1972 he began to take pictures with a Polaroid camera. His images are classical and formal in appearance, his favorites subjects being male nudes, flowers, and still lifes. His homoerotic images became the subject of a much-publicized obscenity charge in 1990 involving the Cincinnati Art Museum. Mapplethorpe also did a series of self-portraits toward the end of his life, documenting his deteriorating health from AIDS.

How did Robert Mapplethorpe get started?

Robert Mapplethorpe was born on Long Island in 1946. He spent all of his life in New York City, receiving his BFA from the Pratt Institute in 1968. He began to take photographs sometime in the 1970s, mostly inspired by a close friend and artistic mentor, Andy Warhol. Mapplethorpe started with a series of self-portraits before moving on to portraits of his famous (and non-famous) friends, particularly some of the artist and poet, Patti Smith. He began to experiment with S&M and pornographic film star portraits sometime in the late 1970s, a practice he would continue for the rest of his life.

What was Robert Mapplethorpe famous for?

Robert Mapplethorpe was famous for his controversial photographic subjects, which included members of the S&M community, socialites, musicians, and even pornographic film stars. His work often explored his sexuality and was the subject of much controversy throughout his life. Towards the end of his life, Mapplethorpe focused on promoting AIDS and HIV research, establishing a foundation and financing research towards the cure of the disease. He died in Boston on March 9th, 1989.

What kind of art did Robert Mapplethorpe make?

Robert Mapplethorpe made photographic portraits, often in black and white, and often dealing with human sexuality. His controversial pieces were extremely popular, but also were frequently the subject of outrage from conservative members of the art world. He enjoyed much popular and critical success, and many of his photos appeared in Interview Magazine alongside articles written by his friend, Andy Warhol. His work has been featured in many famed art galleries and museums including the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Miami Museum of Art, the Getty Museum, and the Hara Museum of Art in Tokyo.

Buy Robert Mapplethorpe photographic prints for sale

Bid or buy Robert Mapplethorpe photographs for sale below. At Heritage Auctions, you can bid online about a month prior to the auction date, and during live auctions you can bid online, in person, or over the phone. You can even make an offer to the owner who previously purchased a Robert Mapplethorpe photograph. Watch for new photographs from Robert Mapplethorpe by saving a want list so you’ll be notified of any new works for sale.

Why buy original Robert Mapplethorpe photographic prints from Heritage Auctions?

Art buyers feel confident because our experts know the market and put careful valuations on artwork for sale. We make the bidding process easy to help expand your art collection.

How to look up Robert Mapplethorpe's original photography values?

The best way to value art is to compare past auction prices for similar works. At Heritage Auctions our final selling prices remain visible for all to see, including any buyer’s premiums paid. View Robert Mapplethorpe’s past sale prices below.

Where to get an appraisal for Robert Mapplethorpe?

The first step in any art valuation is authentication. If you are unsure of the authenticity of the artwork, then Heritage Auctions art experts can help. When you’re ready to sell, contact Heritage Auctions to request an estimate of the likely selling price at auction. If you need a formal written appraisal for estate planning or insurance, please contact our Appraisal Services Department.

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