The exhibition Helmut Newton. Brands brings together over 200 photographs, including many unknown motifs from Newton’s collaborations with internationally renowned brands such as Swarovski, Saint Laurent, Wolford, Blumarine, Redwall, and Lavazza.
On December 3, 2022, the Helmut Newton Foundation in Berlin opened its new solo exhibition HELMUT NEWTON. BRANDS. The new show brings together over 200 photographs, including many unknown motifs from Newton’s collaborations with internationally renowned brands such as Swarovski, Saint Laurent, Wolford, Blumarine, Redwall and Lavazza.
When it came to composition and style, the photographer did not differentiate between magazine editorials and direct brand commissions, which were often arranged through advertising agencies. Newton referred to himself ironically as “A Gun for Hire” – a term that also served as the title of the 2005 posthumous exhibition of his commercial photography, shown first at the Grimaldi Forum in Monaco and then at the Helmut Newton Foundation in Berlin. Only a few photographs from the earlier exhibition on Newton’s commercial photography will be on view in HELMUT NEWTON. BRANDS – such as the magnificent black-and-white series for Absolut Vodka with Kristen McMenamy, produced in Sweden in 2000.
HELMUT NEWTON. BRANDS picks up where A Gun for Hire left off, showcasing photographs Newton shot mainly in the 1980s and ’90s for high-paying advertising agencies and corporate clients, mostly in and around Monaco. In the three front exhibition rooms, we encounter fashion images produced for the luxury industry, such as Newton’s interpretations of Yves Saint Laurent’s latest fashion designs, from haute couture to prêt-à-porter. Newton’s productions from season to season are as diverse and individual as the women’s clothing he depicted. The visual compositions sometimes transcend reality, transporting us to distant emotional and exotic spheres.
The other two rooms show Newton’s commissioned works for Wolford, which were published in 1993 and 1994 as calendars for exclusive customers. Newton’s photographs were used on everything from pantyhose packaging to XXL formats on billboards, public buses, and building facades. His images of designer creations for the american luxury department store chain Neiman Marcus are also on display in the first three exhibition rooms. They include examples from Newton’s many years of close collaboration with Anna Molinari and her label Blumarine, featuring models such as Monica Bellucci, Carla Bruni, and Carré Otis, realized in Nice and Monaco in 1993 and 1994.
On view in the main room of the Helmut Newton Foundation are further little-known motifs: photographs Newton produced for the tobacco company Dannemann, for the Turin-based coffee roaster Lavazza, the Italian vintner Ca’ del Bosco, Redwall or Paul Picot. Likewise shot in the 1980s and ’90s, each motif is highly individual, oriented to the brand and its offerings while reflecting Newton’s signature style. These images were also initially distributed in the form of exclusive, sometimes limited and numbered wall calendars, quickly becoming prized collector’s items traded at high prices. A selection of these calendars has been displayed in the permanent exhibition Helmut Newton’s Private Property for years.
In the rear exhibition rooms, we can discover further collaborations, such as with the crystal jewelry manufacturer Swarovski, Volkswagen, the luxury emporium Asprey, and Chanel. In the mid-1970s, Newton even directed two television commercials for the famous perfume Chanel No 5, starring Catherine Deneuve.
For decades, Newton staged everyday and luxury products, becoming a link between producers and consumers through his photographs and their publication. Advertising is also about communication, conveyed through the product’s image and Newton always added an unexpected plot. At the same time, his visual narratives were universally understandable, so magazine publishers could easily include them in their different country editions, whether as editorial or advertising. Newton mastered the entire spectrum of stylistic and thematic possibilities like no other. Not only did he influence the taste of the times; his images shaped the zeitgeist for decades, sometimes redefining it entirely. His usual starting point was a female model performing a daring act and breaking with the prevailing norms. His commercial photography thus transformed fictitious narratives into possible realities. Entrusted with a virtual carte blanche by many of his clients, Newton pushed the boundaries of what was morally permissible or blurred the lines between truth and lies.
What all these advertising campaigns have in common: Newton only integrated a few images from his commercial photography series into his exhibitions and books during his lifetime. Now for the first time, HELMUT NEWTON. BRANDS offers the possibility to experience these photo series in their entirety in a single exhibition.
HELMUT NEWTON FOUNDATION
Museum of Photography
Jebensstrasse 2 / 10623 Berlin
Duration: 3 December 2022 – 14 May 2023
Credits: © Courtesy of Helmut Newton Foundation