Robert Mapplethorpe at Towner, Eastbourne

Opening Hours

Tues - Sun 10:00am - 6:00 pm


Towner Devonshire Park
College Road
BN21 4JJ
United Kingdom


American artist Robert Mapplethorpe pushed the boundaries of photography in both his subject choice and technique. This has led to him sometimes being remembered for his controversial and often explicit images. However, the outstanding collection of Mapplethorpe photographs in ARTIST ROOMS allows these controversial works to be considered in the context of his entire oeuvre.

Mapplethorpe became famous, not to say notorious, in the 1970s and 1980s for his photographs of the male nude and sexually explicit gay imagery. With these images he tested the right to individual freedom - they were not meant to be titillating, shocking or obscene, but beautiful in a traditionally classical way. His work therefore holds a significant place in the history of artistic struggle to depict the world as it is with honesty and truth.

In 1988 Mapplethorpe stated: “I don’t like that particular word ‘shocking.’ 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.” Yet Mapplethorpe also photographed more traditional subjects, such as flowers (in particular Orchids and Calla Lilies), formal portraits and classical nudes. His understanding of form and light, and his meticulous compositions create truly beautiful images that revel in the sensual quality of nature and the human body.

The exhibition at Towner, East Sussex, presented Mapplethorpe's work alongside New Documents, Brighton Photo Biennial 2010. Mapplethorpe’s work thereby provided an historical context to the discussion of cutting edge contemporary photographic practice.

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