The title of the exhibition clearly circumscribes a geography, that of the French Riviera to Bordighera, Italy, which Helmut Newton photographed from the 1960s until his death in the early 2000s. “Newton, Riviera” is a pretext for a new look at the work of one of the 20th century’s foremost photographers through a fascinating collection of images, some that have become famous, others rarely displayed to the public.
“I love the sunshine. We don’t see it in Paris any more”. These were, allegedly, the words spoken by Helmut Newton to the Monegasque official in charge of processing his papers. The year was 1981. Newton was sixty-one years old and, thanks to a succession of daring series that pushed the boundaries of what was acceptable, had forged a reputation as one of the greatest fashion photographers of his generation.
But his move to Monaco was not a retirement. Quite the opposite. The period between 1981 and 2004 (the year of his death) would prove to be one of the most prolific, and incontrovertibly the most liberated, of his entire career. Monaco provided Newton with a most original setting for his fashion photography. He used the city’s construction sites as backdrops for luxury fashion house campaigns and the garage of his apartment house as a stage for several fashion editorials.
It was here too, that he produced a great many portraits of “beautiful people”, some of whom had taken up residence in Monaco, others merely passing through. His works from this period also include portraits of the dancers of the Ballets de Monte-Carlo and the Princely Family. In Monaco, Newton finally did landscapes, a genre of photography that he had never previously explored. There, he also developed “Yellow Press”, one of his most personal series, full of strange, disquietingly glamorous images inspired by crime scenes.
While the exhibition focuses heavily on this period, it also looks at Newton’s historic links with the Riviera. Through 280 photographs, we discover a dazzling Newton’s ironic yet fascinated interpretation of a way of life characterised by ease and elegance, a world dominated by appearance and superficiality. A veritable living theatre, in which he was both a player on the stage, and a privileged member of the audience.
“Newton, Riviera” will result in a catalog co-edited by the NMNM with Gallimard reproducing all the photographs exhibited and numerous texts and interviews signed by the curators of the exhibition, Matthias Harder and Guillaume de Sardes, as well as : Ivan Barlafante (visual artist), Alain Fleisher (filmmaker, photographer and writer), Simone Klein (consultant and photography specialist), Jean-Christophe Maillot (choreographer-director of the Ballets de Monte-Carlo), Charles de Meaux (visual artist and director), Edouard Merino (collector and founder of the Air de Paris art gallery), Catherine Millet (art critic and writer), Jean-Luc Monterosso (founder and director of the Maison Européenne de la Photographie), Paloma Picasso (fashion designer) and Philippe Serieys (former assistant to Helmut Newton).