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Robert Mapplethorpe
Robert MapplethorpeCourtesy Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation/@HBOPR via Twitter

Robert Mapplethorpe lands his first documentary with HBO

Debuting in April 2016, ‘Mapplethorpe: Look At The Pictures’ includes the artist’s most shocking images

Robert Mapplethorpe – one of the twentieth century’s most controversial artists – is finally getting a biopic. Coming to HBO in April 2016, Mapplethorpe: Look At The Pictures is the first feature length documentary on the artist since his death in 1989. 

According to HBO, the film tells complete story of his life and work – from his time studying at the Pratt Institute in Brooklyn (where he met his first girlfriend Patti Smith) in the late 60s to his death from an AIDS related illness in 1989 – making it the most comprehensive film made about the artist to date.

During the course of his career, Mapplethorpe became known – or rather notorious – for his sexually explicit black-and-white photographs. As well as photographing black men and female body builders, he depicted the BDSM subculture of New York in the late 60s and early 70s – the latter of which sparked extreme controversy. But nothing is ignored in the upcoming film.

“Even his most shocking and forbidden images are included without blurs, without snickers –  in other words, exactly as the artist intended,” say the filmmakers Fenton Bailey (who, alongside In Vogue: The Editor's Eye (2012), is known for Ru Paul’s Drag Race) and Randy Barbato (also known for Ru Paul’s Drag Race)

Apparently Bailey and Barbato were given unprecedented access to the Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation’s archive meaning that the documentary includes never-before-seen photographs and film footage, along with interviews with people who knew and worked with him such as actress slash model Brooke Shields, author Fran Lebowitz and Blondie frontwoman Debbie Harry.

Mapplethorpe: Look at the Pictures comes as The J. Paul Getty Museum and The Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) each prepare major retrospectives of the artist’s work (both opening in March).

One of the great photographic pioneers, Mapplethorpe left an indellible mark on the art world – this film poses to be a long-overdue exploration into his extraordinary life and work.