Skip to content


The Pepe Cobo Gallery is pleased to present a selection of works by the artist Robert Mapplethorpe in this exhibition entitled Vanitas, which will be open from December 13th.

Born on Long Island, New York, in 1946, Robert Mapplethorpe did not begin his artistic career as a photographer. In early pictorial works he often manipulated photographic images drawn from various sources, and later, photographs taken by himself with his Polaroid camera. The definitive step took place when the artist acquired a large format camera and began to photograph his friends and acquaintances, among which were artists, musicians, celebrities in general, porn stars and members of the sadomasochistic community, among others. These photographs were in many cases scandalizing, but always brilliant on a technical level, thus causing great tension between their delicate formalism and the difficult subject matter.

The importance of sexual imagery in Robert Mapplethorpe's work is well known to all, to the extent that it sometimes even prevents a nuanced understanding of both his own work and the sexual motives it deals with; For this reason, this exhibition has wanted to include a more complete selection of his works in order to facilitate a richer and more complex perception of this artist's work. Thus, in the photographs selected for Vanitas we can observe an aesthetic and conceptual treatment that is applied not only to the human body, but also to food -a bread, an ear of corn, a melon, a pear, a bacchic bunch of grapes, a aubergine or a fish-, the flowers -white calla lilies, open or closed, always in an androgynous way, an innocent-looking rose-,

All these works are included in a catalog published on the occasion of this exhibition and whose title is given by the sub-genre, especially baroque, still life; Vanitas, whose ambiguity - and incisive - particularity consisted both in appealing to our conscience by reminding us of death, as in basking in the beauty of the objects chosen to do so. But in condemning those things that they define as vain they cannot help but caress them. Thus, in the warning itself also resides the promise of seduction, and the temptation itself. In this artist's work, both the banal and the authentic occur or overlap, both the obscene or easy as well as the delicate or admirable; and in the one the search for the other and vice versa, because in both there is, in one way or another, beauty.

This exhibition has been held in cooperation with the Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation, founded in 1988 to institutionally promote photography and fund medical research against HIV and related infections.