Sofia Coppola on Bill Murray & Robert Mapplethorpe

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Robert Mapplethorpe, Richard Pryor Bill, 1983
Robert Mapplethorpe, Richard Pryor Bill, 1983© Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation. Used by permission. Courtesy Galerie Thaddaeus Ropac, Paris/Salzburg.

On the opening of Robert Mapplethorpe by Sofia Coppola at Gallerie Thaddaeus Ropac, we revisit AnOther Magazine issue 5 when the director discussed her love for actor Bill Murray...

"I can get kind of corny when it comes to Bill Murray. I’m just such a big fan. So for me, a good way to spend the day is to rent a bunch of his old movies. He is so funny and romantic. He cracks me up and can be so touching and heartfelt. He sings too, which is always a good Bill Murray thing to do.” Sofia Coppola in the A/W03 edition of AnOther Magazine.

Speaking to AnOther Magazine back in 2003, director Sofia Coppola waxed lyrical about her love for actor Bill Murray; for his quirkiness, his gentleness, his uncanny ability to raise an eyebrow and break the heart. An actor of small gestures and of fleeting moments, he eschews bluster and high drama for the expression of the small, strange, inexplicable tragedies and joys of the human condition. It is these qualities, this languid, soulful aesthetic embodied by her favourite actor, that has long also been synonymous with the works of Coppola herself, evident across the board from her debut, the sun-drenched melancholic sweetness of The Virgin Suicides, to Murray's career defining turn in Lost in Translation and Somewhere, 2010's exploration of the ennui of fame set in the infamous Chateau Marmont hotel.

"Coppola sculpted an exhibition that portrays a nearly-unknown side of Mapplethorpe, one that is very much in step with her world"

It is perhaps surprising therefore to find Coppola curating the work of photographer and artist Robert Mapplethorpe, who is most widely known for his erotic and controversial images tracking the burgeoning gay scene in 70s and 80s New York; images replete with an uncompromisingly full bodied attitude to sexuality, elements far from Coppola's oeuvre. Yet in her exploration of the artist's archive, held by the Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation in New York, the curator has sculpted an exhibition that portrays a nearly-unknown side of the artist, one that is very much in step with her world. Coppola is inspired by images, using photographs to order and help visualise the concept of her films, and she uses this exhibit to fashion a paean to the gentler side of Mapplethorpe's vision, weaving together images that radiate a languorous pulsing grace as opposed to the strident, explicit energy his more famous works evoke. Animals sprawl, eyes half closed, Stella Astor gazes without confrontation into the lens, the potent sexuality of Lisa Lyon is tempered with an edge of humour and calm. Stillness reigns throughout, a stillness that is the trademark of a director interested in moments of contemplation rather than flashes of violence or explosions of high drama.

Robert Mapplethorpe by Sofia Coppola opens today at Galerie Thaddaeus Ropac, Paris, and will run until January 7 2012.

Text by Tish Wrigley