The designer Raf Simons is a well-known lover of art. So it makes sense that the Mapplethorpe Foundation reached out to him for a collaboration.
Simons unveiled the results yesterday in Florence, with a collection that were Simons classics: slim black pants, oversized sweaters, tailored jackets, each featuring a Mapplethorpe image.
Simons didn’t shy away from Mapplethorpe’s more explicit images. One vest has an erect penis sticking out of the wearer’s pants. Models wore leather belts around their necks in reference to bondage.
The show was a reminder of Mapplethorpe’s role in bringing gay sex out of the dark and into the eye of a public that wasn’t entirely prepared for it. The New York Times wrote,
“His images were revolutionary, both for the radically inclusive nature of their subjects, and for their meticulous execution.”
Robert Mapplethorpe and his controversial work is having a moment this year with Fenton Bailey & Randy Barbato‘s HBO documentary Mapplethorpe: Look at the Pictures as well as two major retrospective exhibits at the Getty and MoCA.
In her memoir, Just Kids, about their relationship, longtime pal Patti Smith wrote,
“He worked without apology, investing the homosexual with grandeur, masculinity and enviable nobility.”
Several pieces in Simons’s collection featured Smith’s image.
Mapplethorpe’s work continues to force the public to acknowledge and accept the existence of gay men and women. And given the events of this last week, more work is still to be done.