A Performative Exhibition: Choreography for an Exhibition in Napoli

Robert Mapplethorpe: Choreography for an Exhibition is on view at Madre Museum of Contemporary Art in Naples, Italy, through April 8, featuring more than 160 works displayed alongside archaeological, ancient, and modern pieces.

Robert Mapplethorpe, Thomas and Dovanna, 1986

Organized by the Museum of Contemporary Art Madre, in collaboration with the Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation in New York, Choreography for an Exhibition, brings a body of work to Naples in an innovative show and a performative program starring international choreographers. “Until now the works of the American photographer had never been placed in a direct confrontation with that obvious performative component that seems to animate them. The Madre Museum thus affirms its vocation as a collector between different creative expressions that come together to rethink and re-formulate experimentally the fruition and nature of a museum.”

Robert Mapplethorpe, Phillip Pioleau, 1978

The exhibition features over 160 works, displayed alongside archaeological, ancient and modern pieces, in addition to a site-specific dance program commissioned to celebrate the performative and physical aspects of Mapplethorpe’s photography.

Robert Mapplethorpe, White Gauze, 1984

The exhibition – curated by Laura Valente and Andrea Viliani – develops into three separate sections, each looking closely at different phases of his work. It opens with “Ouverture”, where portraits of Patti Smith and Samuel Wagstaff Jr, the two muses of his life, are facing each other.

The first section of the exhibition features his favorite subjects: dancers, athletes, body-builders and models, which he captured with a tight orchestration of lighting, composition and arrangement in graphically stylized black-and-white photographs. The central room of the Museum, dominated by a red carpet for dancers and a sequence of self-portraits of the artist – where he experiments with his fluctuating ideas of identity and sexuality – is transformed into a theater.

The backstage, “the (Un)Dressing Room”, is open to visitors and exhibits works in which one gets a glimpse of Mapplethorpe’s studio life; next to it the “X (Dark) Room” displays erotic subjects, including the provocative and formerly censored “X Portfolio”.

An incredible testament to an incredible artist. 


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