Magic In The ~ ‘Meeting Mr Mapplethorpe’

On Thursday 26th November, I had a fantastic opportunity to be involved in the curation/installation of The Magic in the Muse. The exhibition is part of Artist Rooms, a collection of contemporary and modern pieces of art that tour the UK, exhibiting at different galleries. It’s pretty amazing that because of programmes like Artist Rooms, you don’t have to go to London to see great artwork, now it comes to you!


Robert Mapplethorpe (1946-89) was an interesting character to say the least. He was an American photographer, with a very broad subject matter. He was particularly interested in the human body and identity. He was known for his rather controversial works that tackled the taboo around sexuality (don’t google with a faint heart). Even today a lot of his work is overshadowed by the whips and chains, although don’t worry, none of those feature in this exhibition.





When I arrived at the Museum on Thursday I was greeted by Celine Elliott, the Coordinator of the exhibition, who introduced me to the team from Tate London. It’s really strange seeing artwork before it’s been properly displayed, it makes the experience much more intimate and personal. Within the first 15 minutes there had already been a problem, it seemed a piece of work was missing, and we had the wrong photo. It turned out that we did have the right photo, but there had been some miscommunication along the way (the new photo worked better anyway!). We got around to finalising the layout of all the photographs, moving them around so they told the story of Robert Mapplethorpe, to the portraits of his friends, to him addressing the inevitability of his early death. When you enter the exhibition, take special note of the right hand wall, I arranged those photographs!

Jess' wall!
Jess’ wall!

The whole experience was a real eye opener. I learnt how hard it is to put an exhibition together, but I also learnt that Mapplethorpe’s work is still so relevant 26 years after his death. He addressed gender, sexuality, body image, and what it means to grow up. As someone just entering adulthood, I think he portrayed growing up perfectly – this giant leap from innocence to responsibility. That’s the most interesting element of Mapplethorpe’s work, its timeless quality.


By Jess Giblin, 18

Art Foundation at Queen Elizabeth Sixth Form College, Darlington

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