Two Mapplethorpes

Above: Two Mapplethorpe vintage prints auctioned on 6 March, in London. Credit: Christie's.

Mapplethorpes at Christie's

Robert Mapplethorpe vintage prints from 1980--printed by Robert in the same year as the photo taken--are surely a bellweather of photographic art at auction. There is not an art museum in the world that would not want to own the two classic self-portraits that recently came up at Christie's. (London sale 15473 Post-War and Contemporary Art Evening Auction, 6 March 2018, lots 1 and 3.)

In one of the photos on sale the photographer is dressed as a 1950s Elvis- James Dean-era rock 'n' roll outlaw--in the photo every small nuance is readable and there to be interpreted, details like the upturned jacket collar, the pompadour quiff hairstyle, the quizzical facial expression, and the half-down cigarette.

In the second photo the photographer appears in full conventional feminine makeup, blow-dried hair, and shaven bare chest--gender fluid long before the term was coined.

Edmond Francey (Head of Post-War & Contemporary Art, London) and I discussed the photos at the reception and we agreed that both are absolute bang-on-the-money desirable Mapplethorpe vintage prints. So what did they realize at auction last week? £80k each only. A very clear indication of the extent to which photography is definitely out-of-favour or "unfashionable" to art collectors at this time. As they say in stock-trading jargon, "... buying opportunity."

(24 March 2018)