Robert Mapplethorpe and Pedro Almodóvar first met in Madrid in 1984, while the American photographer was there for the opening of his exhibition at the Fernando Vijande Gallery. It was Mapplethorpe’s first exhibition in the city. He was 38 years old, and was in the midst of a splendid creative moment, as evidenced by a series of Calla Lily photographs and marvelous portraits of Ken Moody completed in that year. Mapplethorpe was already an accomplished artist, sure of himself and his sensibility by the mid-1980s. In addition to being a cult figure among the New York intellectual and social elite, he was also well known in some gay and S&M circles. By this time, his photographs had been shown in the Robert Miller and Leo Castelli Galleries in New York as well as in solo exhibitions internationally, including the Institute of Contemporary Arts in London. At that moment, Almodóvar was a well-known filmmaker in the Spanish underground. These were the years of the Madrid-based movida, and evidently, Mapplethorpe and Almodóvar had gone out partying together in Madrid, which at the time was a city welcoming and open to foreign artists, and, above all —as a reflection of the movida— was very receptive to young artists closer to the underground than to the establishment. Almodóvar still remembers the impact that Mapplethorpe’s retrospective exhibition at the Whitney Museum of American Art had on him back in 1988, a few months before the photographer’s death. Almodóvar saved the catalogue from the show. Many of these details were unknown to us when we proposed to Almodóvar that he act as curator of an exhibition dedicated to Robert Mapplethorpe. He accepted with relish, but rejected the idea of being the “curator.” His selection of seductive and powerful images created a unique installation of photographs in our gallery, turning this Mapplethorpe exhibition into an Almodóvarian visual experience. This show inaugurated Galería Elvira González’s relationship with the Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation.
Siri Hustvedt is an award-winning author and poet.