Johnathan Becker, known for his portraits of artists, worked at Vanity Fair for thirty years. In 1988, he photographed Robert Mapplethorpe on the occasion of his first (and last, as Mapplethorpe passed away shortly thereafter) retrospective at the Whitney Museum of American Art. The image in the present lot accompanied a feature article about the lauded exhibition and the acclaimed artist written by Dominick Dunne for Vanity Fair. In the article, Dunne writes:
That summer night at the Whitney Museum, there were sighs of relief when [Mapplethorpe] arrived for the opening, having been released from St. Vincent’s Hospital only days before. He was in a wheelchair, surrounded by members of his entourage, carrying a cane with a death’s-head top and wearing a stylish dinner jacket and black velvet slippers with his initials embroidered in gold on them—a vastly different uniform from the black leather gear that had become his trademark. For those who had not seen the once handsome figure in some time, the deterioration of his health and physical appearance was apparent and shocking. His hair looked wispy. His thin neck protruded from the wing collar of his dinner shirt like a tortoise’s from its shell. But even ill, he was a man who commanded attention, and who expected it.
“Robert Mapplethorpe's Proud Finale” by Dominick Dunne, Vanity Fair, February 1989