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ArtByNumbers: 'Roid Rage

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The estate of late photographer Robert Mapplethorpe has sold more than $2 million worth of his work in the past year. And the just-closed show at the Cheim & Read Gallery in Chelsea of Mapplethorpe's earliest photographs, Polaroid self-portraits from 1972 to 1974, has only added to the tally. The 56 photos were taken with his first camera, a gift from the late curator Sam Wagstaff, when Mapplethorpe was 26, and the entire set will be published in a book by Arena Editions in November. These early snaps have never appeared at auction, where Mapplethorpes are regularly sold for up to $25,000. (This year, 39 of his photographs have sold at auction for more than $350,000 total.) Priced at $6,000 each, approximately 30 of the Polaroids have been sold to buyers that include the Whitney Museum, a top Hollywood producer who requested anonymity, and a prominent but as-yet-unnamed West Coast museum.

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