Patti Smith made a promise to the celebrated photographer Robert Mapplethorpe that she would one day write their story. Now, twenty years after Mapplethorpe’s death to AIDS-related complications, Smith has kept her word, immortalizing their journey of innocent love and artistic pursuits amidst New York City’s bohemia in her memoir, Just Kids.
Their saga begins during the late sixties in Brooklyn, where a young Smith meets Mapplethorpe, a visual artist with sizeable ambition. A shared creative hunger fosters an unshakeable bond; they become lovers, roommates, and later, tender friends, intertwined in one another’s lives and careers.
Together they explore the legendary art subculture of NYC while cohabitating at the Hotel Chelsea amongst a cast of outsiders. In time, they each grow into their own, but can’t manage long without the companionship of the other. Even when a confused Mapplethorpe engages in sexual exploits with men, Smith is there with open arms.
Just Kids continues to follow the two through their rise to fame—Mapplethorpe for his provocative photography and Smith for her iconic stance in punk rock—and concludes when they are permanently parted by death.
It’s a tragic ending to an unconventional tale. Smith’s recollections rewire traditional ideas of love and her poetically pure storytelling does more than allow her to fulfill her promise; it cements ‘Smith and Mapplethorpe’ as one of the art world’s most relevant pairs.