(Robert Mapplethorpe, Self Portrait, 1983)
Appearing on show in Istanbul for the very first time, the work of Robert Mapplethorpe invites you to take a walk on the wild side at Galeri Nev until 12 February. On entering the small gallery space in the Mısır Apartmanı, one is immediately confronted by the photographer's 1983 self portrait (above). This picture, the only one which hangs alone, sets the tone for the rest of the exhibition; black and white, moody and menacing, yet at the same time slightly humorous. Perhaps sensibly, the curators have chosen not to display the more explicit works which got Mapplethorpe into so much trouble with the American Family Association. The focus here is largely on portraits, self portraits and nudes - and what truly wonderful images these are. From the slight comedy of Mapplethorpe in furs and makeup (he looks like a young Mick Jagger riffling through his mum's wardrobe) to ravishing pictures of bodybuilder Lisa Lyons and his one-time partner and muse Patti Smith (whose picture he took for the cover of her seminal Wild Horses), these photographs show just what a connoisseur of the human face and form he was. Tucked away by themselves are the most poignant works in this show, two self portraits done in 1988 when he was clearly nearing the end of his life; tired and ill, he thrusts forward a cane topped with a miniature skull - the artist's own memento mori. This show, small as it is, is a worthy tribute to one of the most influential photographers of recent times and an excellent introduction to his work. Highly recommended.