Sneak Peek

Robert Mapplethorpe Photos, Patti Smith Lyrics Coming to Selby Gardens in February

The exhibition will also feature new horticultural installations inspired by their work.

By Kay Kipling July 22, 2021

Patti Smith and Robert Mapplethorpe IV, 1969

Image: Norman Seeff

Marie Selby Botanical Gardens’ popular Jean & Alfred Goldstein Exhibition Series will take a rather new direction with its next show, coming up Feb. 13 through June 26, 2022. Robert Mapplethorpe and Patti Smith: Flowers, Poetry, and Light will mark the first time that the series has presented the work of a living artist and a contemporary photographer. Previous exhibitions have centered on such artists as Salvador Dali, Andy Warhol, Paul Gauguin and, most recently, Roy Lichtenstein’s take on Claude Monet’s flower paintings.

Although the works by photographer Mapplethorpe (who’s often better known for his famous nudes) and singer/songwriter/poet Smith may differ from those earlier artists and represent different decades, the exhibition is once again curated by Dr. Carol Ockman, Selby’s curator-at-large, and will be sure to include new horticultural installations inspired by the two artists’ work, as previous exhibitions have done. The gardens will also host “An Evening with Patti Smith” on Feb. 15, a lecture and performance that will shed new light on this body of work.

Mapplethorpe and Smith met in New York City in the summer of 1967, and their relationship endured, first as lovers, and ultimately as longtime friends and artistic collaborators. Smith’s memoir about their relationship, Just Kids, won the 2010 National Book Award.

Flowers, Poetry, and Light will reimagine Selby Gardens’ Conservatory as Mapplethorpe’s photography studio, complete with drop cloths and lights to spotlight and frame living flowers. In the Museum of Botany & the Arts, an exploration of the photographer’s influences and practices will unfold in a display evoking his apartment. Four iconic flower photographs, including Orchid, Irises and Hyacinths, as well as two bust-length photographs of Ken Moody (one of Mapplethorpe’s most photographed subjects) holding an apple and a palm frond, will join archival photos and period furnishings there.

Robert Mapplethorpe's Hyacinth, 1987.

And throughout the grounds and gardens, installations of floral displays inspired by the photographs will be accompanied by a poetry walk of works by Smith, excerpting verses from her poems and songs. Smith continues to write and perform regularly, also lending support to human rights issues and environmental groups; Mapplethorpe died of AIDS in 1989.

Robert Mapplethorpe's Irises, 1987

Selby’s president and CEO, Jennifer Rominiecki, says, “This exhibition creates an immersive experience for our visitors, where our gardens and floral displays set the stage for a unique cultural encounter with two of the most iconic artists of our time.”

More programming is expected to be announced closer to the exhibition opening date; stay tuned at


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