A powerful show at one of Europe’s most spectacular philanthropic art foundations showcases the works of one of the 20th century’s most provocative image-makers
A complex comprising a converted industrial warehouse and storage silos in the far northwest of Spain may not seem, on first glance, like an obvious place for a major retrospective of one of the most glamorous photographers of the 20th century. Helmut Newton’s provocative, lustrous shoots, oozing on the edge of debauchery, were the mainstays of publications like Vogue and Harper’s Bazaar in their fin-de-siecle glory years, creating era-defining stories from the best that the great urban fashion houses of Paris and Milan could offer in association with the powerful media houses of New York and London – and of course featuring Newton’s unique relationship with the supermodels of the day. They were la cosmopolitan La Dolce Vita with a slice of outrage.
The MOP Foundation, which LUX visited to see the current “Helmut Newton Fact & Fiction” exhibition, is on the edge of the Spanish port city of A Coruna, in Galicia, at the top left corner of the Iberian Square, and feels a long way from the glamour of the traditional fashion world.
And yet appearances deceive: the MOP is the creation of Marta Ortega Perez, of the Inditex Spanish fashion dynasty that owns Zara; a powerful effort to place their home city on the global cultural map, it is in a location whose drama and own cultural history would have enormous appeal to Newton himself, one feels.
The exhibition itself shows a breadth to Newton’s works that some may have missed: alongside iconic fashion images are portraits of David Bowie, Charlotte Rampling and Margaret Thatcher, among many others. Newton’s works always have power: the power to shock, in some cases, and to provoke, in others, and the power of sheer visual brilliance, in others.
All are very much on show here. Newton’s works are also very much of their time – a man depicting women and their power in an era of liberation that sometimes now seems at risk, and of course we now live in a post-supermodel, post-celebrity fashion photographer era.
The MOP specialises in photography and their work with the Helmut Newton Foundation in bringing this – the third show in the foundation’s history – to life is a fitting tribute to an art form that is sometimes at risk of being demeaned by a billion smartphones.
Helmut Newton, Fact & Fiction, MOP Foundation, is available to view until 1st May 2024
Online Editor: Candice Tucker