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Capsules of Taste: Robert Mapplethorpe Collection at Auction
Christies, I have been collecting auction catalogs of important "single owner" sales as records of taste. I see them as capsules of a particular collector's or tastemaker's discerning eye. And, they serve as a unique way to see their world and sample their individual points of view.Ever since I worked at the auction house
Hence, over the years I have saved the catalogues from many important sales: Mrs. Charles Wrightsman's house in Palm Beach, decorated by Stefan Boudin in 1984; the Duke and Duchess of Windsor sale in 1997; Mr. and Mrs. Jack Warner of Warner Brothers frame, 1990; the Steinberg Collection filled with impeccable objects in a Mark Hampton setting, 2000; and for contrast, the Robert Mapplethorpe Collection, sold on Halloween in 1989.
This weekend I looked at the Mapplethorpe sale. It is mostly filled with the remarkable photographs he collected, all taken by others. Some of these are by well known artists and others lesser known, but all are interesting for their influence on his work. However, it is his decorative objects that I found most remarkable today. Like his art, he was ahead of his time. Objects that at the time were unusual to collect are today part of the accepted general taste. For example, he was interested in sculls, African art, Rose Cabat pottery, Stickley furniture, and Venini glass (the catalogue is illustrated with many of his dramatic flower photos where the glass and ceramic pieces were frequently used).
He even designed furniture on his own: a white laminate coffee table made in limited edition is part of the sale.
Rarely do we get to visit the variety of private collections that are sold. These catalogues are the rare windows into them.
Images all taken from Christies sale catalogue for Mapplethorpe sale, October 31, 1989. From top: Robert Mapplethorpe's living room in New York; a collection of skulls and other metal sculptures; white laminate and glass coffee table by Robert Mapplethorpe; amphora decorated by Keith Haring; collection of ceramics by Berndt Friberg for Gustavsberg; walnut music stand, artist unknown; walnut stool by K. Thomsen; Venini glass.