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Knokke-Heist: A new Helmut Newton retrospective makes for an eye-opening cultural outing by the sea
Discover over 300 iconic images by the trailblazing photographer in this new retrospective Helmut Newton. Legacy at Knokke-Heist from 10 June to 25 September.
The Belgian resort is the second stop of this new world-touring photo exhibition – the only one in the Benelux region - following its inauguration in Berlin in 2021.
Staged by the Helmut Newton Foundation to commemorate the centenary of his birth in the German city in 1920, it’s the biggest retrospective ever devoted to the high fashion and cinema photographer.
This must-see exhibition in the newly-renovated Ravelingen exhibition space in Knokke-Heist features many unseen images, alongside the iconic ones that form his legacy as an artist.
Newton is generally associated with the glamourised portraits of statuesque women that forged his reputation in the 1970s and 80s. But there’s also an edgy, subversive angle, as well as many lesser-known aspects of his work, during a career that spanned five decades.
Curator Matthias Harder includes many of Newton’s more unconventional fashion photographs that reflect the changing spirit of the post-war decades. The presentation is complemented by Polaroids and contact sheets that reveal Newton’s creation process and provide context to his prolific portfolio.
Born Helmut Neustädter into a middle-class family in Berlin, Newton first learned his trade as an apprentice to renowned theatrical photographer Yva (Else Simon). His Jewish heritage led him to flee his homeland during the rise to power of the Nazis rise during the 1930s. During the second world war he lived in Italy and then Singapore before eventually settling in Australia, where he set up a commercial photography studio in Melbourne.
A move to Paris in the early 1960s, with his photographer wife June F Browne, triggered the start of Newton’s recognisable and inimitable style. He pioneered a sharp, frequently monochromatic aesthetic that was to influence a generation of photographers.
As he travelled the world, not only did he take classic studio shoots for top fashion magazines, designers and brands, he ventured out into the streets, staging models as protagonists in a paparazzi story.
From the 1970s, when he began to attract international attention, Newton embarked on a more personal oeuvre with the publication of a series of books that elevated eroticism and fetishism to mainstream photography. They were usually published in three editions (German, French and American), occasionally in limited editions.
Repeatedly testing social and moral boundaries, sometimes even re-defining them, Newton both disturbed and enchanted people with his visions and visualisations of fashion and femininity.
As one of the first fashion photographers whose artistic talent was recognised by galleries, museums and publishers, many of his iconic images have become part of our collective visual memory. This show reveals the evolution of his artistic ethos and defines his indelible legacy.
Newton continued to work until his death at the age of 83 in a car accident in Los Angeles in 2004.
To visit the exhibition, tickets can be bought in advance online or purchased at the front desk. The Ravelingen is located next to the train station and close to bus and tram stops. It's a 10-minute walk from the Zeedijk.
Helmut Newton. Legacy
10 June to 25 September
Photos: (main image) Karl Lagerfeld for Chloe, British Vogue, London 1966; Jerry Hall, American Vogue, Paris 1974; Grand hotel du Cap, Marie Claire, Antibes, 1972