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Art in Luxury Hotels: beyond the décor

Text by Elena Taboada, Director of Southern Europe, Mason Rose

It has been a while since the time when the ruling families of Italy used art in the 15th century to depict their power; to convey a particular message and to persuade. However, the concept itself still remains alive nowadays, not only in its most extreme version as propaganda, but also in a more positive context, as a communication tool. 

The use of art in hotels has experienced a significant development during the past 15 years. These days it is hard to find in the world a renowned hotel that has not embarked, in some way or another, in the process of integrating art in their marketing and branding plan. One of the main purposes of this integration is not only to add a bit of glamour and culture and to please their visitors’ eyes, but to embrace and enhance the fashionable concept of ‘locality’. The idea of fostering local art to convey the best of the surrounding culture adds strength to another concept that has gained importance in the last few years- the idea of authenticity; the increasingly sought-after formula of ‘more local equals more authentic’. I could name many beautiful hotels that use local art to boost this concept, but one that comes to mind as the epitome of using local art effortlessly is Masseria Trapana in Puglia (Italy), a former house built in the XVI century by the Italian aristocracy that boasts frescos of the same era in its original chapel.  Or Abadia Retuerta in Valladolid (Spain), located within a former abbey of the XII century, which exemplifies the best of the Spanish Romanesque style. 

Another interesting artistic concept is that of Craftmanship. Far from being now the dismissed artists of the Middle Ages, craft makers and artisans have become with time the creators of individuality, particularly since the introduction of mass production in the 50’s. The uniqueness that craftmanship coveys is often reinforced in hotels and nowadays there is a blurrier line between artisans and artists; unlike in the past, now they can both reside in the same world of luxury. An example of this perfect blend is the wonderful hotel in Marrakech– Royal Mansour, which elevates craftmanship to a new dimension; the hotel was commissioned by the King of Morocco to be built by hundreds of local artisans using traditional Moroccan techniques, with the intention of becoming the best and most genuine showcase of Moroccan culture.

Whilst not all hotels might be built in a former abbey or by traditional artisans, this does not mean they cannot embrace art. Incorporating art in bedrooms, corridors and restaurants is probably the most common practice in hotels. However not every hotel achieves the difficult task of getting it right. Most in fact fall into the typical trap of using art as décor, matching brush stroke colours with bed covers and frames with bedside tables. Nothing wrong with that if their sole intention is interior design. 

However, many hotels find in art a successful way of adding reputation to their brand and invest time and money in the acquisition of art pieces by famous artists, whether through one-off exhibitions, such as the Baur au Lac in Zurich with their ART in the Park annual event, which includes sculptures by Fernando Botero or Louise Bourgeois, as a prelude to Art Basel; or The Peninsula Paris, where every art piece, by artists from Xavier Corberó to Luděk Hroch, has been carefully chosen to live permanently in an area of the hotel that enhances its impact. Space and art are intertwined in such a wonderful manner.

In order to add a sense of cool and international reputation in a very current and modern way, Flemings Mayfair in London commissioned the work of celebrity photographer Andy Gotts to include black and white portraits of the rich and famous who visited the hotel, such as Kate Moss, Naomi Campbell, Hugh Grant, and Harrison Ford to name just a few. 

The intention of art since the beginning of times has often been to provoke, whatever the reaction. In the world of hotels, where the objective is often to attract a wide range of guests, most hotels opt for neutral and harmless artwork, where the predicted reaction is generally to please, both visually and intellectually, and reflect the views of the majority. 

However, some hotels have started to veer towards a more challenging use of art, art with a message, art to persuade, art to educate and art to create emotions, just like the Medici in the 15th century and many artists after that; for some this is the real purpose of art. Esin Güral Argat, the owner of Joali Maldives, the resort that opened in 2018 in the remote island of Muravandhoo, decided to commission artwork by emerging international artists, such as Porky Hefer and Nacho Carbonell. She scattered the art pieces around the resort with the intention of educating their guests about the environment, sustainability and coral preservation in the Maldives, as part of their overall experience.

As we become more confident as a society in condemning unfair situations with movements such as Me Too or Black Lives Matter I wonder if hotels would also become more confident in expressing their specific views through art- in an attempt to become more targeted to reach a particular audience- or remain neutral and politically correct (whatever that means these days) to attract a wider public. Whatever happens what is certain is that the connexion between art and hotels is here to stay, not just to please the eye but to make a bigger impact. And that’s exciting. 

Joali Maldives: Empowering Female, philanthropy and eco-art

Joali is the Maldives’ first luxury and only art resort, eco-inspired with immersive pieces.

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Joali is a castaway paradise surrounded by uninhabited islands while just 45 minutes away from Male by seaplane. The Maldives’ first and only art resort, Joali’s focus on sustainability is reflected in its trail of eco-inspired artworks by up-and-coming international designers, including a giant Manta ray treehouse by Porky Hefer and an underwater mosaic coral museum by Misha Kahn. With stylish and on-trend interior design in its 73 gorgeous beach and over-water villas encompassing marble, rose gold and bamboo.
Joali’s impeccable sustainability credentials are further reflected in its commitment to saving the oceans with their own coral garden and nursery, all-natural, sealife-friendly shampoo and conditioner in rooms and a ban on non-recyclable and recycled plastic.

Celebrating its first birthday at the end of last year, Joali Maldives is one of few independent luxury hotels in the region, designed and masterminded by one woman, Esin Gural Argat, one of Turkey’s most prominent entrepreneurs (open to interview if of interest). Designed with astonishing attention to detail in collaboration with renowned designer Autoban, Esin’s feminine touches are reflected throughout; from rose gold taps and marble sinks to mini-libraries of female-inspired books in villas for poolside enlightenment. As the Maldives’ first and only art resort, eco-inspired immersive pieces are dotted around the island in a fascinating trail curated by Istanbul-based female collective No LaB, with each piece portraying a timely geopolitical or environmental message.

Committed to helping empower women in the Maldives, Joali has a commitment to hiring local women at all levels, from beach cleaners to senior management, and funds volunteer work with local schools to help girls and women gain skills needed for employment. On a more general local level, blood donation camps are regularly held at the resort for guests and staff to donate to local hospitals to alleviate the shortage of blood for transfusions in the Maldives. Reducing impact on the environment is another of Joali’s philanthropic commitments, with the resort designed and built around the lush palm trees and foliage already on the pristine island of Muravandhoo. Guests can visit nearby desert islands to clean beaches and collect any litter washed up by the sea and take part in a pioneering reef restoration project alongside the resort’s Marine Biologist to help rebuild the house reef after the recent mass bleaching event. All room amenities are 100% natural and safe for marine life, while the small amount of necessary plastic used is both recycled and recyclable. Joali is working on tree-planting schemes for 2020 for guests to offset their carbon footprint, while a new departure donation scheme encourages support of its partner charities for marine conservation and a local NGO supporting children with disabilities.

Editor´s Quote

We could say that it is the only art museum located in paradise. Joali combines luxury and creativity in one place and unique in the Maldives.

J. Garrido

Information

Muravandhoo Island
Raa Atoll, Maldives
+960 658 44 00

Corinne Day: rawness and beauty

Corinne Day entered the fashion world by chance when she was only a teen who wanted the travel the world but ended up revolutionising it. 2020 marks the tenth anniversary of her death, and the British Photographer is remembered for her raw, intimate and documentary-style images, which defined the 90s, launched Kate Moss’ career, and set a precedent for a new style of fashion photography.

Born in west London on February 19, 1962, Day was raised along with her brother by her grandmother. Their parents had divorced when she was five, and theirs was not a healthy environment for kids to grow up —she claimed her dad was a professional bank robber, and that her mother ran a motel.

She left home at 16, and wanted to go abroad, but had no money, so she started working, first as a bank assistant, and later as an international mail courier. During one flight he met a photographer who suggested her to become a model, and she did, though she got jobs only for catalogues, as her beauty had nothing to do with the beauty seen in runways and fashion magazines.
Kate Moss @ Corinne Day
Kate Moss. 1989 @ Corinne Day
When Day was living in Japan in 1985, she met an Australian guy in a subway, Mark Szaszy, who was at the time also a model, and they never separated since. He had a keen interest in film and photography and taught her to use the camera. They travelled to Hong Kong and Taiwan, and two years later they moved to a cheap pension in Milan, where Day started taking photography seriously.

She experimented and photographed her friends, who were also models, in their everyday lives. She crossed the line and captured what was behind the luxury and the glamour that shaped their jobs. She rather focused on their poor salaries: living in dumps, struggling to pay the rent, dirt, drugs, shabby clothes and scruffy styles. She said of that time that they lived “on bread and wine and spliffs.”

Day’s got her first job as a photographer when she returned to London five years later and went to talk to Phil Bicker, the artistic director of The Face magazine. When he asked her why should they hire her, she was witty and bright: they didn’t have any female photographers.

She hardly knew anyone to photograph in the city, so she approached model agencies in search of fresh faces, and found at Storm a blurry polaroid of a 15-year-old that caught her attention. It was Kate Moss, then an unknown teenager from the suburbs, just like she had been a few years before. They became so close that they even moved together.

When they shoot their first editorial for The Face,  3rd Summer of Love, no one could have expected that the minimalistic pictures taken in the grey beach of Camber Sands —with the slouchy and skinny model laughing in the sand, semi-nude, at the centre of the photograph, with the landscape almost invisible— would propel their careers. But in the nineties, things were rapidly changing, and youth and subculture movements gained an unprecedented force in the art scene and the editorial industry, with magazines like i-D and Ray Gun, where Day found a place for her images. Until Vogue reached her.

Under Exposed, the lingerie fashion shot that British Vogue commissioned Day, featured Moss again. This time the images were taken in the model’s apartment, which she shared with her then-boyfriend, the photographer Mario Sorrenti, with whom she’d argued just before the shoot, something that was visible in her expression. The results were fresh and delicate images, but also bitter, and even desolating, of Moss in embroidered underwear in an almost empty apartment.

Vogue had never published something alike. Vulnerability in its purest form, naturality, and no artifice, plus a model opposite to Cindy Crawford, the symbol of the beauty standard that the fashion industry projected. So the images caused a media scandal. They were labelled as “hideous”, and “exploitative”, Day was accused of child pornography, and the term “heroin chic” blew up and put her in the centre of the debate.

After that, both Vogue and Moss stopped working with Day, but she took a step aside from fashion anyway and focused on what people had not seemed to understand: a more realistic and documentary approach of photography. She spent the next seven years photographing her friends and went touring with the band Pusherman. The photographs were published in 2000 in Diary, her first book, an intimate and beautiful chronicle of her surroundings.

Corinne Day was neither interested in the commercial side of photography nor the artificiality, opulence, and perfection values of the fashion industry. Her idea of photography was more inclusive —she found beauty in anyone and any situation, everything could be interesting—. Her style was all about honesty, realism, and intimacy. She formed close relationships with their models and photographed them being themselves, at their places, lying on their couches, with little or no make-up and hairstyling, sometimes using their clothes or second hand. And because she wanted to put the person at the centre, she chose empty and monochromatic spaces like everyday environments: a dull street, a football field, an abandoned building.

When Day discovered Nan Goldin and Larry Clark she found in them someone to admire and whose work could validate hers. “Photography is getting as close as you can to real life, showing us things we don’t normally see. These are people’s most intimate moments, and sometimes intimacy is sad”, she declared, as an answer to the critiques she received for the bleak scenes that she often captured. The camera became a part of her body to the point that when she was diagnosed with brain cancer in 1996, she made Szaszy photograph her in bed, and the images appeared in Diary. After she received surgery and recovered, Day went back to fashion photography and allowed herself more colour, elements, and textures. She worked again for Vogue and with Moss, photographed Sofia Coppola, Natalie Portman, and Tilda Swinton, among others, and her work was exhibited in museums like the Tate Modern, the Saatchi Gallery, and the National Portrait Gallery.

In 2010 the brain tumour returned and Day received treatment, thanks to the fundraising campaign that their friends organised selling limited-edition prints of her photographs, but it was not effective, and she died on August 27, 2010.

Three years later her second book, which featured unseen photographs she had taken for 20 years, was published. “I just do what I love, and I don’ really care what anyone else thinks”, she declared in 2006. “If they like it, that’s just a bonus.”
Linda Evangelista for Vogue May 1992 @ Corinne Day

Jess Farran pushes all boundaries

Photo by Jess Ferran

Jess Farran is a photographer and art director based in New York whose compelling work crosses both physical and metaphorical boundaries. She has previously worked with Milk Makeup, Allure, Wilhelmina Models and Teen Vogue, and she also has several self-edited projects. The images she creates gravitate from nightmares, to an exploration of the body, sex and individuality, to a parallel abstract world. Read below as Jess and Andrea Mena talk about honesty and taking action nowadays, growth and creative processes, and reaching high consciousness and joining the aliens.

 

I feel like your zines have been steadily changing from a darker, perhaps more chaotic place (as in “MEATEATER“) to a more dreamy and romantic subspace, in “Habibi” and other recent photographs. Do you think this has happened naturally, depending on the place you’re at in every moment, or has it been a more intentional change?

Transition from the dark to the light is definitely both intentional and natural. MEATEATER was made from really dark, dormant energy. It was just kind of festering inside of me and needed to get out. A month after I made MEATEATER I fell in love and learned to let the darkness of my past subside in the darkness. I don’t want to forget those really chaotic and rough feelings, but I needed to create softer, more angelic images in order to survive.

 

Do you get inspired by external reasons, other artists, or do you work from your emotions/perspective? Maybe they can go together as well? Do you feel like you have to work hard towards getting a photography the way you want it or is it more of a natural process?

I definitely am inspired by other artists but I’m never focusing on trying to replicate anyone else’s work, there’s no point to that. I’m mainly inspired by their approach and concept to what they’re making, and I try to use that as fuel in order to make my own work. My real muse though is definitely my past. I’ve lived a lot of really brief, intense lives and I’ve dealt with a lot of trauma along the way. The only real constant in my life has been photography. Not even my family is a 100% security, which is a scary and hard realization. It’s also been a freedom, though. The more you loose in life the more you realize you don’t have anything distracting you from your art, it’s just fuel for the fire. Shooting definitely comes naturally to me now, but I’ve worked very hard for a very long time to be able to get there.

 

Photo by Jess Farran

When you make a project, what do you tend to go for: a concept, an idea, an aesthetic, a diary?

It really depends. Sometimes I’ll go based off of a huge concept and then the aesthetic comes after, and sometimes the concept is the aesthetic. If you don’t have a concept though your project won’t hold up. I had a professor that always told me if you can’t explain your idea in one sentence that you don’t understand it, and I think about that all the time.

 

You last zine, “Habibi”, revolves clearly around the idea of love, and you have a muse for it. How has it been working with your boyfriend Gus, who’s also an artist? Do you guys help each other artistically?

My boyfriend, Gus, and I are definitely two psycho artists. We’re both obsessed with what we do, and it’s really nice being with someone that understands that the way we live our life doesn’t always make logical sense. We’re definitely collaborative at times, but we really do keep our opinions to ourselves when either of us has a project that involves the other. We obviously give each other feedback and advice, but when it comes to the concept of the project we don’t interfere.

 

Your photos seem kind of dreamy, un-real, romantic, abstract. Do you feel like you produce images to make them seem from this world or from another?

Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about reality, and I do think within the last few years I’ve created my own version of this world that best fits who I am. There are a lot of things I would love to change about the way our society works and how it looks, so I 100% put that vision into my work. I never really liked the word “dreamy” to describe my work, though. I actually suffer from chronic nightmares and something called “false awakenings,” so if anything my work should be described as nightmarish.

 

How does one cope with your job being also your biggest hobby? Do you ever feel like it can take part of the appeal away?

Being an artist is really the only identifier I’ve ever had, so at this point it’s impossible to separate the two. I started shooting seriously when when I was really young though, like 15. I would shoot for hours and hours a day for years in high school, so when I graduated and turned 18 I hit a wall and actually stopped shooting for a few years. It was really weird, I was still shooting professionally for work but I didn’t pick up a camera for fun for a very long time. I felt like I was going through a mid-life crisis but I was still a teenager. I feel somewhat blessed to have felt that so young though, now I feel like I really know who I am and can just focus without fear of loosing passion or creativity.  

 

Photography, as every art, can also reflect the current state of the world. I’ve seen you portrait unconventional bodies, donate to organizations, etc. Do you feel like art and politics go hand by hand or not? What would you say is the right path to follow here?

The idea that art and politics can be separated is a really brash idea to me. Even if the art you’re making has nothing to do with any sociocultural theme, it’s still political. The majority of the art in museums is made by old cis white men, how is their privilege to create that work separated from the current political climate in which the work was made? To me it’s not able to be separated. Art doesn’t have to be innately politically and that’s totally okay, it’s exhausting experiencing things that have a strong message all the time. We do need moments of just pure beauty and creativity. But to think that’s those things are created out of thin air by a person who has no role in the cultural hierarchy we live in is a bit ignorant.  

 

Photo by Jess Ferran

How do you feel about being a female photographer today? Have you ever had any difficult experiences in the industry because of your gender?

At this point I try not to think much about it. I had to prove my worth early in my career but at this point I’m over it. I don’t let people take advantage of me and I don’t work with people that aren’t respectful. Learning to say “no” is the most powerful thing you can do as a woman.

 

You have been really open about your political opinions, life experiences and about social oppression on Instagram. I really appreciate that, because we need more voices like yours inspiring the youth. Would you like to give any advice to young non-binary/female photographers or just any confused folk trying to get by?

Just be unapologetically yourself. Realize that no one is going to put in the work for you so you better put it in yourself! Also: GET OFF INSTAGRAM.

 

What border would you like to transcend next? So far you’ve worked with some pretty amazing youthful brands but you’ve also self-edited your work. Do you have any preference over that? Any projects in mind?

I always have projects in mind, but right now I really want to start getting into directing. I also think I’m ready to reach high consciousness and join the aliens 😉

 

Discover more about Jess in her website or follow her on Instagram.

Blanca´s Gracia Lost Paradises

[vc_row][vc_column width=”1/1″][ads_pro_ad_space id=”2″ max_width=”” delay=”” padding_top=”” attachment=”” crop=”” if_empty=””][/ads_pro_ad_space][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column column_width_percent=”100″ align_horizontal=”align_center” overlay_alpha=”50″ gutter_size=”2″ medium_width=”0″ mobile_width=”0″ shift_x=”0″ shift_y=”0″ shift_y_down=”0″ z_index=”0″ width=”1/1″][vc_custom_heading text_height=”” text_space=”fontspace-201688″ text_font=”font-555555″ text_weight=”900″ text_transform=”uppercase”]Blanca Gracia’s lost paradises[/vc_custom_heading][vc_custom_heading text_size=”h3″ text_height=”” text_space=”” text_font=”font-204947″ text_weight=”300″]Text by Esther Cañadas[/vc_custom_heading][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column column_width_percent=”100″ overlay_alpha=”50″ gutter_size=”1″ medium_width=”0″ mobile_width=”0″ shift_x=”0″ shift_y=”0″ shift_y_down=”0″ z_index=”0″ width=”1/1″][vc_single_image media=”73680″ media_width_percent=”50″ alignment=”center”][vc_column_text]Tabú, Blanca Gracia[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/1″][vc_column_text]Blanca Gracia owns a personal universe, where she transfers beings that come from the present and, once there, he lets them interact with a fantastic environment that reveals their true identity. This is how the artist experiments with her characters the possibilities that human beings have of breaking with horror, contradictions and beliefs in ethereal utopias with a personal language full of expressiveness and vivacity.  

She depicts her concept and ideas in different formats: video art, watercolours and drawing will help her try and test –in a nearly alchemic process- until the elements create a dialogue that makes the message she wants to transmit be heard. 

Gracia has created a personal world with which to decipher and digest the reality that surrounds us. Through anthropology, philosophy and politics, she reflects on the passage of time, our society or our relationship with nature. Her universe always stems from the present, from actual, real images, that she decontextualizes to make them seem fictional. Her character are placed in exotic places, in the middle of a wild, idyllic nature, mixed with mythological or historical figures who, in the present, continually relive the same deeds of their past. It all helps to remind us that human beings still face the same miseries, utopias and contradictions. In other words: he still dreams with idyllic settings where he cans escape from the hell of his days and, stuck in a circular historic progress, he keeps on tainting his hopes with blood, hare-brained revolutions and stark brutality. Because history repeats itself thanks to ignorance and the incapacity of humans to break free from the inertia of their acts or to overcome their decadent condition. [/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/2″][vc_column_text]Gracia reflects about the human condition and, in a moment of uncertainty where solid truths are nowhere to be seen, she uses philosophy to give sense to an absurd reality that lays bare the struggle of humankind against challenges that is hasn’t manage to resolve since its origins. 

The idea of escapism, of exodus, of flight, the colonialism according to Plato, are all incarnated in contemporary individuals who flee from society towards uncivilized places where they will face new challenges: what is to be done with civic death? And in a world without a set of laws and regulations? Once the journey exploring his inner passages has finished, it is time to return to civilization, as if the journey had been cathartic and the human being had lost itself in order to find himself and be born anew. 

[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][vc_column column_width_percent=”100″ overlay_alpha=”50″ gutter_size=”1″ medium_width=”0″ mobile_width=”0″ shift_x=”0″ shift_y=”0″ shift_y_down=”0″ z_index=”0″ width=”1/2″][vc_single_image media=”73679″ media_width_percent=”100″][vc_column_text]Sísifo, desfloramiento y Brexit, Blanca Gracia[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column column_width_percent=”100″ overlay_alpha=”50″ gutter_size=”1″ medium_width=”0″ mobile_width=”0″ shift_x=”0″ shift_y=”0″ shift_y_down=”0″ z_index=”0″ width=”1/2″][vc_single_image media=”73678″ media_width_percent=”100″][vc_column_text]Hay que imaginar a Sísifo feliz, Blanca Gracia[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][vc_column width=”1/2″][vc_column_text]The landscapes in her works may seem candid and innocent, but they exude an irony and a symbolism full of messages with which Blanca Gracia tries to overcome the bewilderment of the world surrounding us. When her characters are expelled from the real world, when she creates and artificial context and she puts them in the company of the figures from the past, she manages to strip them down to their bare essence. So, once they have been stripped of everything that decorates them and hides what they are, they miseries and contradictions become more obvious and, by including figure from another historical context, she places them within humankind’s sad trajectory: incapable of improving, it drags itself along the same fatalities and insecurities. There are frequents allusions to do-goodery and utopias, to the natural world as a refuge to which you can flee and start anew, as a place where you can search for principles or solutions that will fail. Gracia analyses and reflects on the human condition in its most violent, absurd and primitive aspects, but leaving no traces of sadness in her work. [/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]

Robert Mapplethorpe Universe

[vc_row][vc_column column_width_percent=”100″ position_vertical=”middle” align_horizontal=”align_center” overlay_alpha=”50″ gutter_size=”3″ medium_width=”0″ mobile_width=”0″ shift_x=”0″ shift_y=”0″ shift_y_down=”0″ z_index=”0″ width=”1/1″][vc_custom_heading text_height=”” text_space=”fontspace-201688″ text_font=”font-173847″ text_weight=”900″ text_transform=”uppercase”]Robert Mapplethorpe Universe[/vc_custom_heading][vc_custom_heading text_size=”h4″ text_height=”” text_space=”” text_font=”font-204947″ text_weight=”300″ text_italic=”yes”]Text by Esther Cañadas[/vc_custom_heading][vc_single_image media=”73301″ media_width_percent=”53″ alignment=”center”][vc_column_text]Back in the seventies, New York was a wild, vibrant city that projected its own creative chaos towards the rest of the world. During these years, it was a frenzied city with dramatic levels of criminality and the economy in freefall. However, it was also a deeply creative metropolis of frenetic vitality, which we now see with an almost mythological halo of nostalgia. The city grew in its shuddering anarchy, open to everyone willing to go with its powerful flow. 

The largest city in America collapsed dramatically due to industrial decline and economic stagnation. The financial crisis brought budget and salary cuts, which sunk many people into poverty. They were forced to move to the suburbs, and this made New York lose 10% of its population. This decline of population aired out the city and provided a new use of the public and private spaces that encouraged creativity. The city became more egalitarian. 

New York was a shape-shifting spectacle, with something new and shocking always on the horizon. There was always something happening in every street and behind every door. It was an inspiring city where you could breathe freedom. The underground carriages were full of graffiti and food scraps. Being a New Yorker wasn’t easy, and some of them carried guns, just like gangsters. The homicide rate was three times higher than the current one, intensified by the dramatic increase of crack and heroin abuse. The power cut that left the city with no electricity for twenty-five hours in 1977, which led to looting in various districts, was a good example of this atmosphere of criminality. [/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column column_width_percent=”100″ position_horizontal=”right” position_vertical=”middle” overlay_alpha=”50″ gutter_size=”3″ medium_width=”0″ mobile_width=”0″ shift_x=”0″ shift_y=”0″ shift_y_down=”0″ z_index=”0″ width=”1/2″][vc_custom_heading text_size=”h3″ text_height=”” text_space=”” text_font=”font-204947″ text_weight=”300″ text_italic=”yes”]With his eclectic work, Mapplethorpe managed to link the high-life and the lowlife of the New York society like very few people did and this gained him the attention of a very varied public.[/vc_custom_heading][/vc_column][vc_column width=”1/2″][vc_single_image media=”73308″ media_width_percent=”63″ alignment=”center”][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/1″][vc_column_text]Rents were low during these years, and many artists could afford living in Manhattan. They gathered frequently to exchange ideas, even if they were strangers. The artist’s way of life was an extreme one in which art was an inner force that was projected over the artistic object. Art could express all kinds of wishes and worries caused by a sick world, and it was in fact the only way to release them. 

The cultural world was exclusive and influential but small. Its members created new trends in music, literature and art that reached the whole country. Musicians and intellectuals were highly regarded and seemed to be surrounded by a divine halo, although they were as vulnerable as everyone else in the crowded streets of the city. John Lennon, Greta Garbo and Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis could be easily spotted strolling along the wild urban landscape of New York. 

This creative atmosphere lead to the emergence of many music bands and cultural movements. In the mid-seventies Max’s Kansas City had the Ramones, the New York Dolls, Sid Vicious, Klaus Nomi and Blondie amongst their regular guests. The CBGB was home for Patti Smith and Television, and we can’t leave out the famous Studio 54, Bloomsbury, the Ocean Club, the Reno Sweeny cabaret, The Other End and the Mudd Club. Andy Warhol was one of the most iconic figures of this scene, walking hand in hand with Debbie Harry. His appearances at the CBGB and other clubs recalled the golden days of The Factory. In these times anything that happened in one of these bars had influence on culture and people. In the seventies, culture was everywhere you looked at. [/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column column_width_percent=”100″ position_vertical=”middle” overlay_alpha=”50″ gutter_size=”3″ medium_width=”0″ mobile_width=”0″ shift_x=”0″ shift_y=”0″ shift_y_down=”0″ z_index=”0″ width=”1/2″][vc_single_image media=”73313″ media_width_percent=”100″ alignment=”center”][/vc_column][vc_column column_width_percent=”100″ position_vertical=”middle” overlay_alpha=”50″ gutter_size=”3″ medium_width=”0″ mobile_width=”0″ shift_x=”0″ shift_y=”0″ shift_y_down=”0″ z_index=”0″ width=”1/2″][vc_single_image media=”73314″ media_width_percent=”100″ alignment=”center”][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/1″][vc_column_text]The Downtown Scene was born during this years as well, with its punk music, disposable painting, body art and the theatrical chaos of LaMaMa. At the same time, the High Mandarin movement made a come-back, with personalities like Jasper Johns, Susan Sontag, Robert Wilson, George Balanchine, Robert Mapplethorpe and more. 

With his eclectic work, Mapplethorpe managed to link the high-life and the lowlife of the New York society like very few people did and this gained him the attention of a very varied public. 

Those weren’t times for refinement, with the city scarring its inhabitants. This brought the need to explore the human complexity not from complaisance but from agitation. Mapplethorpe’s language is a reflection of all that. He portrayed his circle of friends, which included artists, musicians, socialites, porn stars and members of the underground culture. The result was a bunch of impressive images that showed a masterful, impeccable technique. 

Mapplethorpe searched for homosexual topics, used porn stars as models and took elements from the sadomasochistic culture with a clear intent. He also covered some controversial subjects that the LGTB culture used later as symbols of its struggle to achieve equality and recognition. As a member of this community, Mapplethorpe worked to give a positive image of his people, with no moralistic judgements. In the pre-AIDS era, the gay people were great trendsetters. Nowadays there is a romanticized idea of the homosexuals of that time as attractive glamorous careless people, but the truth is they were raised during the oppressive years of Eisenhower and Nixon. However, the outburst of the AIDS plague changed all that drastically in 1981. 

Mapplethorpe was interested in gender ambiguity and androgyny. He extended the boundaries of the definition of gender and identity with his studies on African-American men and with a photographic essay with body builder Lisa Lyon between 1980 and 1982. Here he explored different ways of representing a woman: the goddess, the temptation, the girlfriend, etc. [/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]