“Look, I'm not an intellectual - I just take pictures.” - Helmut Newton
You’ve unquestionably seen them before, over life sized and bearing all, walking with the poised, unapologetic nature only the pure confidence of a model can afford. Helmut Newton’s ‘Big Nudes’ series may seem like blatant erotica at first, but in the '80s these fine art photographs opened up a fascinating discourse at a time when sexual liberation and female emancipation were becoming more and more mainstream. Photographers like Newton were at the forefront of visualising these historical social changes, even if it wasn’t known yet.
Jump forward a few decades to June 17th 2016, and Amsterdam’s photography museum, FOAM has just opened the Helmut Newton major retrospective, in collaboration with the Helmut Newton Foundation in Berlin. Featuring over 200 photographs spanning from his early career to his most iconic images of the day, Newton’s visual mastery of the female form is proven time and time again on each floor of the small but prominent museum.
The exhibition is comprised of several rooms, each painted in a different, solid colour that embodies the collection’s respective vibes. It’s Hermès orange, Merlot red and Wedgwood blue that set the tone for the sultry seductresses adorning the walls. Whether dressed in a YSL Le Smoking Suit or going au natural with a simple pair of pumps, Newton asserts that confidence never goes out of style. He blurs the line between art and fashion through photographs of women exuding a chic dominance that epitomise being free of subjection or subordination.
Navigating the intimate museum and its multitude of vibrantly coloured rooms, is like wandering through a club’s curious layout of dark rooms. Even though his iconic oeuvre often depicts raw sexuality, the complexity of Newton’s artistry is dignified by the tactful curation of gallery rooms and picture hanging ideas that acknowledge how his fine art photography transcends taboo. It’s the authenticity of Newton’s sexually-driven photographs within high-ceilinged rooms that encourage voyeuristic patrons to look and look at other people looking. Relish in an exhibitionist acceptance of loving sex, art and fashion!
Newton has busted down the door and lit the fire for a sexual revolution in the millennial age! This sensually-driven Scorpio knew the direct ties that fashion and art shared, and because of his forethought, the worlds of the gallery and the runway no longer need to be discrete. Newton’s legacy of celebrating sex and loving sex thrives on the catwalks of contemporary fashion designers.
Rising superstar of the moment, Demna Gvasalia from Vetements showcased their A/W ’15 collection at famous, Parisian sex club, Le Depot; sometimes our lust for fashion goes as deep as our loins. Streetwear powerhouse, Hood By Air presented their S/S ’17 collection in the same vein, in a sauna with models encouraged to cruise and chat up the audience before disrobing to chill in the club’s jacuzzi. The spectrum of sexuality and desire is thankfully being broadened and we have to tip our hats to Helmut Newton for that. Long live art and fashion with a sexy twist!
And as a parting note from The Public House of Art, which is equally as disruptive and sexy, “don’t yuck someone else’s yum!”