Patti Smith Reads Her Final Words to Her Dear Friend Robert Mapplethorpe

Per­haps you’ve lis­tened to Pat­ti Smith’s albums. Per­haps you’ve also seen Robert Map­plethor­pe’s pho­tog­ra­phy. If you keep up with mem­oirs, you’ll sure­ly know that Smith’s Just Kids, a remem­brance of her time with Map­plethor­pe in the late six­ties, won all man­ner of acclaim, includ­ing the Nation­al Book Award, when it came out in 2010. But you might still have no idea of the close­ness and impor­tance of each artist to the oth­er, as many of their fans did­n’t before read­ing Smith’s book. While those 278 pages will tell you every­thing you need to know about it, the 178 words of Smith’s let­ter to the dying Map­plethor­pe fea­tured last week on Let­ters of Note say near­ly as much.

But don’t take it from me; in the video above, you can hear the let­ter as read by Smith her­self. She brought it out, appro­pri­ate­ly enough, at the open­ing of her exhi­bi­tion, Cam­era Solo, at Hartford’s Wadsworth Atheneum Muse­um of Art, the first show of her own ven­tures into Mapplethorpe’s craft. Alas, Map­plethor­pe did­n’t live long enough to get around to try­ing his hand at rock music — he did­n’t even live long enough to actu­al­ly read this let­ter — but his artis­tic sen­si­bil­i­ty per­sists in Smith’s own work. “I learned to see through you,” she reads, “and nev­er com­pose a line or draw a curve that does not come from the knowl­edge I derived in our pre­cious time togeth­er.”

Relat­ed con­tent:

Pat­ti Smith Remem­bers Robert Map­plethor­pe

Col­in Mar­shall hosts and pro­duces Note­book on Cities and Cul­ture. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall.

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