"I am obsessed with beauty. I want everything to be perfect, and of course it isn't. And that's a tough place to be because you're never satisfied." These are the words of American photographer and long-time lover of Patti Smith, Robert Mapplethorpe.

As anyone who has read Patti's epic tale of love and fame 'Just Kids' will know, Robert rose to fame in the New York in the 1970s. The two lived at the revered Chelsea Hotel for many years, a cultural holy grail that housed many legendary artists, writers and musicians including Bob Dylan, Jimi Hendrix, William Boroughs, Janis Joplin, Arthur Miller and Leonard Cohen. A whirlwind of making art, love and friends in high places - both of their lives seemed to be a fateful trajectory to fame and fortune.

The artists' ground-breaking photographic oeuvre is the subject of a new exhibition at the Art Gallery of New South Wales. Robert Mapplethorpe: the perfect medium celebrates one of the most renowned photographers of the 20th century, an artist who understood the medium's ability to alter perceptions and push boundaries.

This comprehensive survey of Robert Mapplethorpe's career features over 200 works, including floral still lifes, portraits, figure studies and erotic imagery that charts his involvement in New York's gay scene, as well as a selection of archival material providing insights into his working methods and life.

An icon who photographed other icons, Mapplethorpe captured and shaped an era with portraits that immortalised the cultural idols of the 1970s and 1980s, including lifelong muse Patti Smith, fellow artists Cindy Sherman and Louise Bourgeois, actor Isabella Rossellini and musicians Debbie Harry and Philip Glass.

Robert Mapplethorpe: the perfect medium is showing from 27 Oct 2017 - 4 Mar 2018 at the Art Gallery of NSW.

Gaze of an icon: Robert Mapplethorpe's must-see exhibit