Robert Mapplethorpe’s Photographs and Patti Smith’s Lyrics Blossom at Selby Gardens Starting February 2022.
Marking Sixth Edition of Jean & Alfred Goldstein Exhibition Series, Robert Mapplethorpe and Patti Smith: Flowers, Poetry, and Light Showcases Nature-Inspired Works by Two Iconic Contemporary Artists in Garden Setting for First Time.
Sarasota, FL – July 22, 2021 – This winter, Marie Selby Botanical Gardens (Selby Gardens) will spotlight the work of Robert Mapplethorpe, one of the most significant photographers of the 20th century, together with the poetry of legendary singer-songwriter and poet Patti Smith in a special exhibition on view throughout the garden’s 15-acre Downtown Sarasota campus. Marking the sixth edition of the Gardens’ annual Jean & Alfred Goldstein Exhibition Series, which explores the work of major artists through the lens of their connection to nature, this immersive exhibition puts a selection of Mapplethorpe’s photographs of orchids, hyacinths, and irises, and excerpts of Smith’s poems and lyrics on flowers and nature, in dialogue with new horticultural installations inspired by the two artists’ work.
On view from February 13 through June 26, 2022, Robert Mapplethorpe and Patti Smith: Flowers, Poetry, and Light is curated by Dr. Carol Ockman, Selby Gardens’ Curator-at-Large and the Robert Sterling Clark Professor of Art History Emerita at Williams College. The Gardens will host an Evening with Patti Smith, on Tuesday, February 15, a lecture and performance with Smith that will shed new light on this body of work.
“Selby Gardens is thrilled to bring together this curated selection of nature-inspired works by Robert Mapplethorpe and Patti Smith for the first time ever in a botanical garden as part of our innovative Goldstein Exhibition Series,” said Jennifer Rominiecki, President & CEO of Selby Gardens. “Marking the first time that Selby Gardens has presented the work of a living artist and a contemporary photographer in the series, this exhibition creates an immersive experience for our visitors, where our gardens and floral displays set the stage for a unique cultural encounter and exchange with two of the most iconic artists of our time.”
Mapplethorpe and Smith met the day that Smith moved to New York City in the summer of 1967. Their enduring relationship, through which the two spent time as artistic collaborators, lovers, and ultimately friends, proved formative to each other’s creative practice and artistic output. Flowers, Poetry, and Light reunites Mapplethorpe and Smith in a garden setting, presenting works by each inspired by nature during the counterculture movements of the 1960s, 70s, and 80s.
Selby Gardens’ Conservatory, world renowned for its collection of orchids and bromeliads, will be reimagined as Mapplethorpe’s photography studio, complete with drop cloths and lights that will spotlight and frame living flowers, following the principles of balance and classicism embraced by the photographer. In the Museum of Botany & the Arts, a curatorial exploration of Mapplethorpe’s aesthetic strategies, influences, and practices will unfold in an exhibition display designed to evoke the artist’s apartment, featuring four iconic flower photographs by Mapplethorpe, from the Graphic Studio gravures including Orchid, Irises, and Hyacinths, as well as two bust-length photographs of Ken Moody, one of Mapplethorpe’s most photographed subjects, holding an apple and palm frond respectively. The installation will also include archival photos and period furnishings. Throughout the grounds and gardens, installations of floral displays inspired by these seminal photographs will be accompanied by a poetry walk of works by Patti Smith, excerpting verses from her poems and songs to provide moments of reflection within the garden and underscore the rich symbolism of flowers as the fruits of life, enticement, and rebirth.
“Through this unique and immersive installation, visitors will be able to explore Mapplethorpe’s aesthetic strategies for capturing beauty, including his debts to classical sources and the specific ways he uses light, composition, and color in images of flowers,” said Dr. Carol Ockman, the exhibition’s curator. “These principals of classicism, sensuality, and beauty are echoed from the museum throughout the gardens and conservatory, and are highlighted by the resounding words of Smith, Mapplethorpe’s once lover, close friend, and muse.”