Robert Mapplethorpe: The Perfect Medium

Robert Mapplethorpe: About the Exhibition

Robert Mapplethorpe’s practice as an artist was characterized by inherent dualities. He sought what he called “perfection in form” in everything from acts of sexual fetishism to the elegant contours of flower petals. Robert Mapplethorpe: The Perfect Medium explores Mapplethorpe's body of work through early drawings, collages, sculptures, and Polaroid photography; materials from his archive; portraits, still lifes, and figure studies; rare color photographs; and two seldom-seen moving image works. The exhibition also highlights the artist’s relationship to New York's sexual and artistic undergrounds, as well as his experimentation with a variety of media.

Also on view, the exhibition Physical: Sex and the Body in the 1980s presents a focused installation of work by other artists drawn from LACMA’s permanent collection that helps place Mapplethorpe in conversation with the art of the 1980s.

The J. Paul Getty Museum is presenting a companion exhibition exploring Mapplethorpe's disciplined studio practice and his fascination with classical form and the fine photographic print.

This is a specially ticketed exhibition. Join now to see it free.

This exhibition contains sexually explicit content that may not be suitable for all audiences.

This exhibition was organized by the Los Angeles County Museum of Art and the J. Paul Getty Museum.

Support for the exhibition and its international tour has been provided by the Terra Foundation for American Art.

Sponsored by:

Additional support is provided by the Brotman Foundation of California and the Wallis Annenberg Director's Endowment Fund.

All exhibitions at LACMA are underwritten by the LACMA Exhibition Fund. Major annual support is provided by Kitzia and Richard Goodman, with generous annual funding from Janet Chann and Michael Irwin in memory of George Chann, Louise and Brad Edgerton, Edgerton Foundation, Emily and Teddy Greenspan, Jenna and Jason Grosfeld, Lenore and Richard Wayne, and The Kenneth T. and Eileen L. Norris Foundation.

Image: Robert Mapplethorpe, Poppy, 1988, jointly acquired by the J. Paul Getty Trust at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, partial gift of the Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation, partial purchase with funds provided by the David Geffen Foundation and  the J. Paul Getty Trust, © Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation

Robert Mapplethorpe: For Members Only

Members see it free.

Members receive free tickets to Robert Mapplethorpe: The Perfect Medium—and the rest of LACMA’s specially ticketed exhibitions—plus free general admission all year, special access to visit the museum after-hours, discounts in the LACMA Store, and much more.

Upcoming Member Events:

Join by March 31, 2016 and:

  • be invited to an after-hours Welcome to LACMA party for new members on April 13.
  • receive an invitation (members at the Friend-level and above only) to Portrait: Mapplethorpe, a members-only lecture on April 9, given by curator and head of the Wallis Annenberg Photography Department and Prints and Drawings, Britt Salvesen. You’ll learn about the artist’s major works and achievements, but also about lesser-known facts surrounding his personal life, failures, influences, and more.
  • attend a curator-led tour (members at the Partner-level only) of Robert Mapplethorpe on April 28 with exhibition curator Britt Salvesen.

Member Mondays: extended evening hours for select exhibitions, including Robert Mapplethorpe, just for members.

More member events...



Robert Mapplethorpe: Unframed

Robert Mapplethorpe: My Greatest Boss
March 18, 2016

For the exhibition Robert Mapplethorpe: The Perfect Medium at LACMA and the Getty Museum, we’ve invited people who knew and worked with the photographer to share their memories of him. Here Brian English, Mapplethorpe’s former (and final) studio assistant, recalls him as boss, artist, and person..

One Artist, Two Museums
March 2, 2016

This month, Robert Mapplethorpe will take over Los Angeles, with a major two-part retrospective on view at LACMA and the J. Paul Getty Museum. Drawn largely from the Mapplethorpe archive jointly acquired by the two institutions in 2011, Robert Mapplethorpe: The Perfect Medium will present the full scope of the artist’s work, from his earliest collage-based works, through his early Polaroids, to late floral still-lifes and portraits...

Robert Mapplethorpe: Video

Curator and head of the Wallis Annenberg Department of Photography and the Prints and Drawings Department Britt Salvesen talks about the exhibition Robert Mapplethorpe: The Perfect Medium on view at LACMA through July 31, 2016.