A new exhibition in Sydney is helping to celebrate Robert Mapplethorpe, one of the most renowned photographers of the 20th century and an artist who understood the medium’s ability to alter perceptions and push boundaries.

Robert Mapplethorpe: the perfect medium is a comprehensive survey of his career, and features over 200 works, including portraits, still lifes and figure studies that chart his involvement in New York’s gay scene.

While Mapplethorpe did not identify as an explicit advocate for gay rights, he was a profound catalyst for change.

He didn’t simply – or passively – document his lovers and an increasingly out and proud community of gay men, he used the medium to celebrate his sexuality and afford broader visibility to queer narratives in the early days of gay liberation.

Whether he was photographing a figure, a fetish, or a flower, Mapplethorpe pursued what he called ‘perfection in form’.

The legacy of his unflinching quest for beauty has an enduring political and artistic resonance.

Robert Mapplethorpe: the perfect medium is on display at the Art Gallery of NSW until March 4 2018.

And on Wednesday 28 February, the gallery will go in queer partnership with the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras in Queer Art After Hours, which will feature a shimmering line-up of performances, DJs, live music, gallery tours, and drinks.

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