Americans Select Their Favorite Robert Mapplethorpe Photographs

A citizen from each state in the country picked a Robert Mapplethorpe photograph from an archive of 2000 for a fascinating exhibit that opens tonight at the Sean Kelly Gallery in New York. A California artist is attracted to nostalgia (and Blondie’s Deborah Harry). A New York domestic abuse prosecutor is drawn in by a Mapplethorpe model’s vulnerability, while a Kentuckian is intoxicated by the “sexual quality” of his flowers. They come from diverse ages, races, occupations, backgrounds and familiarity of Mapplethorpe’s work, but together they re-contextualize his legendary oeuvre for the 21st century.

Click through our slideshow of a few of Mapplethorpe’s works selected by Americans representing their state and a few clues about why these images spoke to them. For all 50 sets of insightful reflections, check out Robert Mapplethorpe: 50 Americans.


Deborah Harry, 1978. Copyright Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation. Used by permission.

Some California love for the “graffiti icon” from Mister Cartoon.