Robert Mapplethorpe – Platinum on Canvas

September 20, 2014

Following on from my recent posts looking at different substrates used for platinum printing over the years I recently came across one of Robert Mapplethorpe’s images of Andy Warhol printed in platinum on canvas, which sold at auction in 2006 for $643,000, making it one of the most valuable platinum prints to have been created in the modern era.


ROBERT MAPPLETHORPE (1946-1989) Andy Warhol, 1987 unique platinum print on linen with 4 silk panels overall 42 x 42in. (106.7 x 106.7cm.)

Andy Warhol, 1987
unique platinum print on Canvas/linen with 4 silk panels
overall 42 x 42in. (106.7 x 106.7cm.)


This unique print was created by master platinum printer Martin Axon in 1987, who printed many of Mapplethorpe’s platinum prints before his death in 1989. In an upcoming post I will be talking to Martin about what it was like to work with Mapplethorpe and also details about printing on such a substrate as canvas.

Additional Details about the print when it was sold at auction

‘In 1987, Robert Mapplethorpe mounted an exhibition at the Robert Miller Gallery of photographic constructions – single panel, diptychs and triptychs of platinum prints on linen or canvas which were often accompanied by a panel of silk and then put into frames also designed by Mapplethorpe. The exhibition was mentioned in the following excerpt from an article by Andy Grundberg in The New York Times:

‘Suddenly, it is no longer enough for a photograph to be a picture of something. For a photograph to succeed in the art world, all the signs this spring suggest, it needs to be an object. And the more elaborate, the better.

Robert Mapplethorpe’s photographs, now on view at the Robert Miller Gallery 1 (41 East 57th Street, through May 23), are a case in point. Printed on linen cloth using the archaic platinum process, they are mounted on stretchers, like paintings, and float within frames of thick, black wood. More often than not they are flanked by a panel (sometimes two) of understated but luxurious fabric. The resulting diptychs and triptychs recall Minimalist painting more than they resemble photographs.’ (The New York Times, May 3, 1987, p. H29)

Coincidentally, in 1986, shortly before Andy Warhol’s death, an exhibition (the last of his work during his lifetime) of stitched photographs was also exhibited at the Robert Miller Gallery. Subsequent to that exhibition, Mapplethorpe took Warhol’s portrait after which this, perhaps the most complex – in all senses – of the unique works from this period was created and exhibited in 1987.

In an interview with Janet Kardon at that time, Mapplethorpe pointed out:

‘I don’t think I would have done what I’ve done if Warhol had not appeared as an influence at some time. … I think I was subconsciously influenced by Warhol. I couldn’t have not been – because I think he’s the most important pop artist – but I’m not sure how.’

The present lot, Andy Warhol, was purchased from the Miller Gallery exhibition at that time by the current owner. It is perhaps the most important work by Mapplethorpe to come up for public sale to date, given the artists’ relationship and the role that they both played subsequently in the development of art history.’

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