One of London’s premier galleries, the Alison Jacques Gallery, is to present a groundbreaking show of work by the iconic photographer, Robert Mapplethorpe, many photographs being shown for the first time.
For Fashion Show, Alison Jacques has collaborated with Mapplethorpe’s first long-term boyfriend, model and artist David Croland. Croland, photographed by David Bailey, Duffy and Bill King became the subject of a number of Mapplethorpe works including Polaroids and unique works. He first met Mapplethorpe in 1970 and as his boyfriend was instrumental in ensuring Robert got to know and socialise with some of the most inventive figures in the fashion world. Portraits of people such as Karl Lagerfeld, Yves Saint-Laurent, Ossie Clark, Loulou de la Falaise, Marisa Berenson and Grace Jones form an important facet of this exhibition, giving insights into these burgeoning icons at important moments in their careers.
At the core of Fashion Show are photographs Mapplethorpe shot for publications such as Italian Vogue, French Vogue and L.A. Style in the mid- to late-1980s, most of which haven’t been exhibited before. Beyond his instantly recognisable mastery of relaying beauty and perfection, in these commissioned works Mapplethorpe employs strong geometric elements and constructed contexts to generate elegant but unusually charged narratives. As such, these scenes feel strikingly contemporary – precursors to developments in fashion photography over the ensuing decades.
Many of the photographs reveal Mapplethorpe’s love of high-fashion fabrics and garments. In some, he photographed his better-known muses with their backs to the camera so that the viewer’s attention is focused entirely on the materials, cuts and forms of their dresses, zebra striped fabric, luxurious fur or crushed silk. Mapplethorpe’s love and understanding of high-fashion materials is epitomised with the legendary self-portrait he shot in 1980, showing him in profile in drag wearing fur.
Fashion Show focuses on an aspect of Robert Mapplethorpe, which was key to his work and life: glamour and beauty; but never from an obvious point of view. Several decades on, and nearly 25 years after this death, these images seem as current as ever.
“Robert was always in Fashion. Classic and timeless. Then and Now.” says David Croland.
Robert Mapplethorpe Fashion Show runs from 11th September-5th October 2013 at Alison Jacques Gallery, 16-18 Berners St, London W1.
Photography Copyright Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation. Used by permission.