Patti Smith Reads Her Final Letter to Robert Mapplethorpe, Calling Him “the Most Beautiful Work of All”


In 1989, the world shook with the passing of Robert Mapplethorpe, the avant-garde photographer known for his provocative black-and-white portraits. His lifelong friend, Patti Smith, the punk rock poet laureate, grieved deeply but found solace in her memories and her words. In her final letter to Mapplethorpe, Smith articulated a blend of sorrow and reverence, reflecting on their shared history and his enduring influence.

Patti Smith’s letter is more than a farewell; it is a testament to a profound artistic and personal connection. She describes Mapplethorpe not just as an artist of startling vision but as “the most beautiful work of all,” a human masterpiece whose life intersected painfully yet beautifully with hers.

Their relationship began in the late 1960s in New York City—a time brimming with artistic revolution and cultural upheaval. Patti and Robert’s bond was cemented through mutual support, shared dreams, and profound creative synergy. From bohemian beginnings at the Chelsea Hotel to breakthroughs in their respective artistic fields, their mutual respect and unwavering support fueled their individual journeys.

Smith’s letter explores themes of love, loss, creativity, and redemption. She talks about the promise they made to each other to never abandon their dreams—a promise kept through decades of trials and triumphs. Even as Mapplethorpe faced his battle with AIDS, he continued to create provocative and powerful art that challenged societal norms and gave voice to marginalized communities.

In her final words to him, Smith captures the essence of Mapplethorpe’s legacy: a fearless artist who embraced beauty in all its forms—even those that society seeks to suppress or deny. By calling him “the most beautiful work of all,” she acknowledges the indelible mark he left on art history and on her life.

This poignant tribute serves not only as a goodbye but also as a celebration of their extraordinary partnership—one that transcended conventional boundaries and left an imprint on both the art world and each other’s souls. In immortalizing Robert Mapplethorpe through her prose, Patti Smith ensures that his spirit continues to inspire and provoke.


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