Self-Portrait, 1985, Gelatin silver print, Image: 38.7 x 38.6 cm (15 1/4 x 15 3/16 in.) Jointly acquired by the J. Paul Getty Trust and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, with funds provided by the J. Paul Getty Trust and the David Geffen Foundation, 2011.7.21 © Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation
Thomas, 1987, Gelatin silver print, Image: 48.8 x 48.8 cm (19 3/16 x 19 3/16 in.) Jointly acquired by the J. Paul Getty Trust and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, with funds provided by the J. Paul Getty Trust and the David Geffen Foundation, 2011.7.31 © Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation
In the late ‘70s, Robert Mapplethorpe’s sex pictures exploded onto the New York art scene. Sexually explicit, provocative and audacious – his photographs had the power to shock, seduce, and appal in equal doses. He was adorning the walls of respectable NY art galleries with content most hadn’t seen before – pornographic images styled with a classical guise. His sex pictures depicted re-enactments of sadomasochist sex acts with male models he had met in underground gay clubs, such as Mineshaft, Manhattan. Although his graphic portrayals of the male genitalia raised more than a few eyebrows, the public reaction was thrilling to Mapplethorpe, and he delighted in the responses and attention that his images received. Mapplethorpe’s self-portrait with a bullwhip in his anus (1978) is proof of his bold determination in the face of all protest, and underlined the fact that his work was often intentionally provocative.