While exploring and documenting New York's underground S&M scene in the ‘70s, Robert Mapplethorpe began to create his signature large-scale, highly stylized black and white portraits of naked men. These elegant, precise images triggered some of the most vociferous debates around art and obscenity in the 20th Century. Bridging notions of physical beauty from classical antiquity with a blossoming contemporary gay sexuality, his photos exuded a stark homosexual eroticism that created shockwaves throughout ‘80s America. Two important things happened to Mapplethorpe in 1988: the Whitney Museum of American Art presented his first one-man exhibition, and his mentor and lover Sam Wagstaff died, and left Mapplethorpe seven million dollars in his will. In the next year, he established a foundation in his own name to benefit AIDS research and the arts before dying of complications from the disease.

I'm looking for the unexpected. I'm looking for things I've never seen before...I was in a position to take those pictures. I felt an obligation to do them. - Robert Mapplethorpe
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