The Private Life of Robert Mapplethorpe


Dexter Dalwood’s painting of Robert Mapplethorpe’s humble beginnings in his first apartment is an imagination of the private life of one of America’s most controversial and respected artists. Dalwood captures the stark beauty that was intrinsic to Mapplethorpe’s artistic works. Executed in black and white, Dalwood’s painting utilises the tones of Mapplethorpe’s own photography, and implies its more ominous and forbidding world of sexuality and violence. Enclosing the room with a grid of painted wire, Dalwood emphasizes feelings of both isolation and persecution. The black bed may symbolize both sex and death. The mirror, surrounded by the glittering lights of stardom, but absent any reflection, suggests a premonition of both great promise and utter loss.

Music by Bob Dylan (Restless Farewell):


Music by Patti Smith (Gimme Shelter):


A Portrait of Sam Wagstaff and Robert Mapplethorpe

Black White + Gray examines the symbiotic relationship between wealthy, influential curator and collector Sam Wagstaff and photographer Robert Mapplethorpe in New York during the heady years of the 1970s and 1980s. The film looks intensively at Mapplethorpe’s intimate relationship with Wagstaff, and his rapid ascendancy in the art world with Wagstaff’s forceful patronage and guidance. At the time their romance began, Mapplethorpe was 26 years old, twenty five years younger than Wagstaff, and leaving the loft apartment he shared with Patti Smith near the Chelsea Hotel on 23rd Street.Each man sought out the other, and they would remain connected forever. The film explores the strong bond of friendship both men shared with Smith in this period, also marked by Smith’s first recording triumph, “Horses,” her debut album from 1975. Wagstaff, Mapplethorpe and Smith were at the center of scenes variously characterized by raucous “happenings,” the Warhol Factory and notorious hangouts like Max’s Kansas City. The period was colored by club life, the emergence of punk rock at CBGBs, Studio 54 and darker corners of lower Manhattan, like the Meat Packing District and the Chelsea Piers, where a teeming gay underworld was thriving.

The film shows Wagstaff secretively transcending these various social strata, while Smith and Mapplethorpe edged toward notoriety and infamy with their respective work.

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9 Responses to “The Private Life of Robert Mapplethorpe”

  1. wilhelm Says:

    I enjpyed this post on a “one degree fo separation” personal level. Cheers.

  2. Nancy Says:

    Great article, thank you.

  3. linda troeller Says:

    I live in 914 of the Chelsea and am finishing a art photo book of my years here 1994-2008 time frame. I have a few shots of people who lived here in the past for the end of the photo essay like Arthur Miller, a man who dated Madonna, Behan, Christo and and Green allowed me to use his shots of Dee Ramone. I would like to use your b/w on the blog.
    Linda Troeller

  4. Elvert Barnes Says:

    Thanks, Et Cetera, from someone who was a part of Mapplethorpe’s private life. See


  5. Et Cetera: Publick and Privat Curiosities Painting the Town Pink: A Composition for The Chelsea Hotel « Says:

    […] Cohen, Willem de Kooning, Jane Fonda, Janis Joplin, Milos Forman, Jimi Hendrix, Dennis Hopper, Robert Mapplethorpe and Patti Smith, Vladimir Nabokov and Wes Klein. Dylan Thomas drank 18 straight whiskies there, his […]

  6. Postcards From Warren: The Cinematic Legacy of Warren Sonbert « Et Cetera: Publick and Privat Curiosities Says:

    […] era of the avant-guard art world defined by artists who included Andy Warhol, Gerard Malanga, Robert Mapplethorpe, Claus Oldenberg, Robert Rauschenberg, Patti Smith, Lou Reed and John Cale. It was the world of […]

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