3. Patti Smith and Robert Mapplethorpe

Greatly inspired by the original beatniks, rock-and-roll-hall-of-fame-musician Patti Smith and fine-artist-turned-photographer Robert Mapplethorpe found one another in 1967 through several chance encounters on the streets of New York City, where they  eventually choose to fuel each other’s careers as well as their beatnik spirits. Together they evolved as artists as they collected the diverse creative skills they’ve been critically acclaimed for. Although Mapplethorpe stayed relatively steady in the lane of visual arts, Smith, along with being a famed musician, has written several award-winning books and has had many exhibitions of her drawings. The two artists are undeniably icons on their own, but perhaps even more cosmic as a duo.

Deeply explored in Smith’s 2010 National Book award winning memoir Just Kids, the relationship between Smith and Mapplethorpe is shown to have been complicated but eternal. Smith helped Mapplethorpe as he came to terms with his sexuality and his eventual contraction of HIV, while Mapplethorpe helped Smith take her first steps of artistic self-discovery. They were together for Smith’s initial musical career awakening moment post her first Doors concert, they were together when Mapplethorpe’s idol, Andy Warhol, was shot, and though connected only through a phone line, they were together the night before AIDS took Mapplethorpe’s life in 1989. Although separated at times throughout their careers, they remained inseparable friends till Mapplethorpe’s final day.

In a brief, but illuminating note to her readers preceding the opening of Just Kids, Smith discusses the controversy surrounding Mapplethorpe and his intense devotion to his art.

Smith writes: “Much has been said about Robert, and more will be added. Young men will adopt his gait. Young girls will wear white dresses and mourn his curls. He will be condemned and adored. His excesses damned or romanticized. In the end, truth will be found in his work, the corporeal body of the artist. It will not fall away. Man cannot judge it. For art sings of God, and ultimately belongs to him.”

Hotel Chelsea, which is famous for housing several artists from all categories, became the home and saving grace of Smith and Mapplethorpe in 1969. Smith was desperate to get Mapplethorpe, who had fallen extremely ill, out of their dingy former apartment and was able to secure the smallest room in the hotel, room 1017, by selling some of her work. During their time at the hotel, they were greatly influenced and inspired by their fellow residents, including Janis Joplin, Gregory Coroso, and Allen Ginsberg.

Another notable Smith-Mapplethorpe location is Tompkins Square Park. Although Smith and Mapplethorpe had two brief encounters prior to running into one another at the park and would part ways yet again after this meeting, the park was the location of one of their most crucial encounters. Feeling unsafe on a date with an older writer and looking for an escape, Smith latched on to the vaguely familiar face of Mapplethorpe, who went along with Smith’s ruse to cast him as her boyfriend. The park would also serve as a temple of sorts for the punk movement, which cast Smith as their Queen.