GAM - Civic Gallery of Modern and Contemporary Art of Turin opens its 2020 season with a great retrospective exhibition entitled “Helmut Newton. Works”. The exhibition is promoted by Fondazione Torino Musei and produced by Civita Mostre e Musei in collaboration with the Helmut Newton Foundation, Berlin.
The exhibition project is curated by Matthias Harder, director of the German foundation, who has selected 68 photographs designed to provide a comprehensive overview of the long career of this great photographer whose truly unique visual concepts have, from the very beginning, never ceased to amaze and make a sensation. The result is an exceptionally characteristic and accomplished body of work that has reached a public of millions through magazines and books.
“Spanning more than five decades, the work of Helmut Newton defies categorization. Newton transcended genres, bringing elegance, style, and voyeurism to fashion, beauty, and glamour photography for an oeuvre that remains as inimitable as it is unrivaled”, stated Matthias Harder.
The works on display range from the 1970s, with the numerous covers for Vogue, to Newton’s later work with his beautiful portrait of Leni Riefenstahl dated 2000, thus offering visitors the opportunity to fully appreciate his work as never before.
Four sections present Newton’s work in this long time span, featuring some of the most powerful
and innovative shots of his time. Numerous portraits of 20th century celebrities will be on display, including those of Andy Warhol (1974), Gianni Agnelli (1997), Paloma Picasso (1983), Catherine Deneuve (1976), Anita Ekberg (1988), Claudia Schiffer (1992) and Gianfranco Ferré (1996). As to
Newton’s most important fashion photo campaigns, the photos he created for Mario Valentino and Thierry Mugler in 1998 will be exhibited together with a series of important, by now iconic, photographs for the most important international fashion magazines.
Newton's camera had the ability to deeply scan reality: behind the elegant gesture of his images, it is possible to get a glimpse of yet another reality, which is up to the viewer to interpret.
“Helmut’s a great manipulator. He knows exactly what he wants and he is relentless in his drive to get that on film. He loves the theatricality of photography. The models become his creatures, his characters" (June Newton)
Fashion photography does not only describe but also redefines the spirit of the times, it aims to tell exciting and surprising stories with images. In this respect, Newton mastered this task perfectly. He went beyond standard practice, interweaving a parallel narrative, sometimes tinged with a sense of surrealism or suspense, transcending traditional narrative approaches, imbued not only with luxurious elegance and subtle seduction, but also cultural references and a surprising sense of humour.
Newton’s clear aesthetic sense pervades all areas of his work, beyond fashion, also in portraiture, and nude photography. Women take centre stage, while the interaction between men and women is yet another frequent motif we encounter in his work.
"Fashion was my first desire, even as a school boy. And of course, I wanted to be a Vogue photographer " (Helmut Newton).
Newton transformed banal locations into starkly contrasting or particularly minimalist theatrical stages for his unconventional scenarios: "I am not interested in good taste. (…) I like being l’enfant terrible " (Helmut Newton).
One location was the garage of his own apartment building in Monaco, with models and parked cars arranged in visual dialogue.
Helmut Newton died unexpectedly on January 23, 2004 in Los Angeles before he could witness the completion of the Foundation dedicated to him.
Helmut Newton Works is the title of the large book published by Taschen, which also includes the photos on display in this exhibition and ideally represents its catalogue.