Suddenly seeing Robert Mapplethorpe and Edvard Munch’s work side by side throws the parallels between their photography and painting into sharp relief. Unexpected and previously unexplored similarities crop up in both their themes and subject matter, from self-portraits, nudes, flowers and faces, to a taste for controversy and the way both explored identity and sexuality. The latest in a series of exhibitions at The Munch Museum in Norway brings together Mapplethorpe and the Norwegian expressionist painter for the first time.
Continuing its work for the ambitious, two-year +Munch series in Oslo, Snøhetta are behind the exhibition design and accompanying catalogue published in collaboration with Belgian art book publisher Mercatorfonds.
The catalogue explores points of comparison between the photographer and Munch – the notoriously troubled painter of The Scream – with the same thematic divisions as the show. The ordering and layout also follow the flow of curator Jon-Ove Steihaug’s main essay. Inside, images are placed towards the bottom of the pages, leaving swathes of empty space above, while the softness of the flesh-pink cover is balanced by debossed black foil lettering and a double portrait. Contrasting elements in the design also speak to the contrasts in both artists’ work as they handle beautiful and bold subjects with the same attention.
Mapplethorpe+Munch follows on from exhibitions that have put Munch’s work in dialogue with Bjarne Melgaard, Vincent van Gogh and Gustav Vigeland. The final two instalments in the six-part +Munch series will see the Norwegian’s painter’s work paired with Jasper Johns and Asger Jorn.
Mapplethorpe+Munch is on at The Munch Museum in Oslo, Norway until May 29.