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  • Writer's pictureNicole Ruskell

Exhibition: 'Helmut Newton, Riviera' at Villa Sauber in Monaco

17 June to 13 November 2002

A fantastic exhibition of the greatest fashion photographer of all time, during his prolific years in the French Riviera.

One of the most important fashion photographers in history, #HelmutNewton revolutionised the field by blending styles and genres, pushing the envelope on sexuality, nudity, and blurring the lines between gender roles. The German photographer showcased high fashion within stark, industrial environments and even incorporated transgressive themes like BDSM in mainstream portrait photography. He also created the concept of the #supermodel.

Naomi Campbell, Cindy Crawford, Helena Christensen… these are only some of the models made ‘super’ by Helmut Newton.

A superstar in his own right, Helmut Newton - along with his life and artistic partner, June - were the hottest photographers from the 1980’s - 2000’s. The biggest fashion brands, magazines and models were eager for a Helmut Newton photoshoot. His recipe of glamour, couture, sex and street chic made his unique touch the most in-demand and sought after.

A very special exhibition is now open in Monaco, celebrating the life and times of the famous shutter couple. “Helmut Newton, Riviera” is a retrospective of the photographer’s time spent in the Riviera, both at their first country property in Ramatuelle, to the later years at their home in Monaco. Many never-before-seen photos are on display, a massive collection of his work, hand-picked from the Helmut Newton Foundation’s archives, private collectors and Princess Caroline’s own collection of his work.

Helmut Newton, Riviera exhibition at Villa Sauber in Monaco.
Matthias Harder and Guillaume de Sardes at the opening of the exhibition.

This exhibition has been masterfully curated by Guillaume de Sardes and Matthias Harder of the Helmut Newton Foundation in Berlin. Starting with Helmut's first boundary-pushing fashion photographs, like “Woman examining man” (seen above) taken for American Vogue in 1975, shows for the first time the woman as the dominant partner in the interaction between the man and the woman. This image may not seem racy or out of the ordinary to today’s standards, but at the time, this was the first photograph to depict a woman leering at an attractive man with sexual prowess.

It was Newton's subtle and yet shocking interplays between his subjects that caught attention early-on in his career. The exhibition takes us through his professional progress and his photographic phases, while keeping to photos only taken within the Riviera (between Ramatuelle and Bordighera, Italy). While Helmut and June came down to their Ramatuelle country house often in the 1970s, it wasn’t until 1981 that they made the permanent move to Monaco. Helmut was already a legend at that point, and while some may think moving to the warm, sunny south in your 60s is move for retirement, the last 20 years of Helmut’s life in Monaco (until his death in 2004) were among his most prolific. And it is this span of work that this exhibition pays hommage.

The Portraits

Helmut Newton, Riviera exhibition in Monaco
The Portrait room

Moving on to the portrait room with bright yellow walls and larger-than-life portraits of larger-than-life characters - we see Luciano Pavarotti, Sylvester Stallone, Monica Bellucci, David Bowie, Karl Lagerfeld and more. Helmut Newton often attended the Cannes Film Festival and had many portrait commissions during the glamorous event. But there was one person in particular that he snapped repeated portraits for: Caroline, Princess of Hanover. The two became good friends and during his time in Monaco and Helmut did a lot of work for the princess, including being the photographer for the Ballets de Monte-Carlo.

The Nudes

A room dedicated to his nudes. Starting with one of his most iconic images, and one of the ‘safest’ to publish in this line, “The Kiss” welcomes viewers through a snail-shaped parcours of larger-than-life nudes, including “Big Nude II”, standing guard at the entrance, completely nude and owning it - without a drop of vulnerability - the perfect piece to set the tone of the collection. All the women baring it all in his photos are powerful, proud and seemingly comfortable in their own skin. Refreshing in a world where a woman's body was so easily taken advantage of. Perhaps in addition to Helmut's pure intention for the work, it was also the ever-present June that brought a complete sense of safety to the models.

Images from the exhibition, taken by Nicole Ruskell, clockwise from the top: 1) Big Nude III, Henrietta, 1980. 2) From the 'Mode et nus' collection. 3) Helmut in pumps, taken by Alice Springs, 1987. 4) The Kiss and Simonetta's eye, 1982. 5) Shoe, Walter Steigler, 1983. 6) After Velasquez, 1981.

Ballets de Monte-Carlo

In the red-walled room, we find the Ballets de Monte-Carlo collection. His body of work for the Ballet is relatively unknown, but the entire room is filled with his choreographed portrait photography of the dancers (although no shots of them actually dancing), creating some of the most special playbills in existence. These pieces are on loan from both the Ballets de Monte-Carlo and Princess Caroline’s personal collection.

In the ‘Curiosa’ collection, you find an array of strange, bizarre, experimental and perhaps shocking photos, including many of his “Yellow Press” scenes where he creates ironic or perplexing crime scenes. Always with a joke or an out of place prop, as Matthias Harder revealed.

The exhibition ends with a continuous screening of the home film made by June Newton, who documented their lives and their work for decades. A rare glimpse into the daily life of Helmut Newton, whether reflecting over breakfast or in the middle of a photo shoot with Cindy Crawford. The museum also recreated their living room at the Monaco flat (it no longer exists), with the view they enjoyed beyond the terrace.

Don’t miss this very special and intimate exhibition that takes you behind the camera to the personal side of one of the greatest photographers of our time.

Until 12 November.


Newton, Riviera


NMNM / Gallimard / Prestel

French, English

352 pages

20 x 26

ISBN : 978-2-492121-07-4 (French version) et 978-2-492121-08-1 (English version)

Foreword(s) : H.R.H. The Princess of Hanover, Björn Dahlström

Text(s) : Ivan Barlafante, Alain Fleischer, Matthias Harder, Simone Klein, Charles de Meaux, Catherine Millet, Jean-Luc Monterosso, Guillaume de Sardes

39 €

The ultimate souvenir of this spectacular exhibit, the “Newton, Riviera” catalog is the latest bold coffee table book of the late, great photographer. Co-edited by the NMNM with Gallimard, all the photographs exhibited are included, plus 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).

Available for purchase in the gift shop or by emailing:

Villa Sauber

17, avenue Princesse Grace

98000 Monaco

Tel +377 98 98 91 26





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