Mapplethorpe versus Rodin in Paris

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Mapplethorpe versus Rodin in Paris

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A new exhibition in Paris explores the connection between world-famous French sculptor Auguste Rodin and controversial US photographer Robert Mapplethorpe.

Much of Mapplethorpe’s work includes monochromatic male nudes while Rodin is celebrated as a pioneering modern sculptor whose masterpieces include ‘The Thinker’ and ‘The Kiss’.

The artists were born in different centuries and on opposite sides of the Atlantic, and it may appear far-fetched to place the two together. So what’s the connection?

“When you think of Mapplethorpe, you think of New York, the 1980s, photography. And when you think of Rodin you think 19th century, sculpture and Paris,” said the exhibition’s curator Hélène Pinet.

“We put them together because they were both passionate about the human body. They both expressed it – one through photography and the other through sculpture – and it appears they developed a common vocabulary, so it was interesting to have them confront each other, or rather create a dialogue between the two artists,” added Pinet.

The show features more than 100 Mapplethorpe photographs which are on loan from the Mapplethorpe foundation in New York. They are mounted on glass walls in front of 50 Rodin sculptures, in thematic subgroups like ‘Eroticism and Damnation’ or ‘Movement and Tension’.

The similarities are often striking; there are strong echoes of Rodin’s forms throughout Mapplethorpe’s work. Both artists courted controversy in their time and both shared an interest in sexuality and had numerous relationships with their models.

‘Mapplethorpe-Rodin’ runs at the Rodin Museum until September, in tandem with a more far-reaching Mapplethorpe exhibition at the Grand Palais, the largest-ever retrospective of the US artist’s work.

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