LACMA and the Getty Acquire Robert Mapplethorpe Art and Archive

Joint acquisition brings finest and most representative body of work and related material by Robert Mapplethorpe to Los Angeles and underscores the museums’ commitment to collaboration

The Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) and the J. Paul Getty Trust are pleased to announce their joint acquisition of art and archival materials by or associated with Robert Mapplethorpe, one of the great photographers of the second half of the twentieth century. The vast majority of the acquisition comes in the form of a generous gift from the Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation, and the remainder from funds provided by The David Geffen Foundation and the J. Paul Getty Trust.


Robert Mapplethorpe, Untitled, c. 1971. Cylindrical cage with dice, glove, and rabbits’ feet. Promised gift of the Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation © Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation. Used by permission.

This significant acquisition establishes Los Angeles as the center for the study of Mapplethorpe, gathering in one location the finest and most representative body of the artist’s work in conjunction with the definitive collection of related archival materials. The acquisition covers more than 2,000 works of art by the artist, including a print of virtually every photograph he editioned in silver gelatin, a large number of Polaroid works and unique works, artworks by Mapplethorpe’s contemporaries and the richest and most extensive documentation of his career, including personal correspondence with significant cultural figures of the period.

The J. Paul Getty Museum and LACMA will add well over 2,000 jointly owned works of art to their collections, and a substantial archive will reside at the Getty Research Institute. LACMA and the Getty are planning a collaborative series of monographic exhibitions, and additional plans are currently being developed to show and publish the work in the future.

This acquisition marks the first time that LACMA and the Getty have acquired jointly, and initiates a new collaboration for exhibitions, loans and scholarly exchange. “We are thrilled to partner with the Getty on this acquisition, which grows an already significant investment by both institutions in collecting photography while also furthering the collaboration between our two Los Angeles institutions,” said Michael Govan, LACMA’s CEO and Wallis Annenberg Director.
The LACMA portion of the purchase was made possible by a generous gift from The David Geffen Foundation. “I am extremely happy to support this acquisition of artwork and papers by one of the most significant artists of the twentieth century,” commented David Geffen, “and to add to Los Angeles’ stature as one of the most important centers for photography in the world.”

“We are very grateful for the generosity of the Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation in making this extraordinary art and archival material available here in Los Angeles,” said Deborah Marrow, interim president and CEO of the J. Paul Getty Trust. “This collaboration is a great example of the strength of the collegial relationships among the art institutions in LA.”

“The Getty Museum is particularly pleased to add these works by Mapplethorpe to our photographs collection, the origins of which lie in the 1984 acquisition of the Sam Wagstaff collection,” adds David Bomford, acting director of the J. Paul Getty Museum. “Both Mapplethorpe and Wagstaff contributed greatly to the field of photography, and adding Mapplethorpe’s work to Wagstaff’s collection is a fitting tribute to them both. The acquisition also supports our philosophy of collecting individual artists in depth, so the chance to share a substantial part of Mapplethorpe’s oeuvre with LACMA is a wonderful opportunity for us.”

At the Getty Research Institute, the Mapplethorpe archival material joins the archives of Wagstaff, the noted curator and collector who was the artist’s partner, and Harry Lunn, the prominent photography dealer who published Mapplethorpe’s X, Y and Z Portfolios. “Because of their depth and breadth, these materials will stand not only as the primary resource on Mapplethorpe, but as a repository for research on a wide variety of topics, including the growing acceptance of photography as an art form and the enormous changes in the art market in the latter part of the 20th century,” said Thomas Gaehtgens, director of the Getty Research Institute.

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