Newton, Testino, Piggozi on show in Berlin
Three simultaneous photography shows at Berlin's Helmut Newton Foundation boldly celebrate the human form. Curator Matthias Harder tells DW about ever-changing societal attitudes towards the naked body.
Through the peephole
Fashion, eroticism, anatomy and art intertwine at the triptych of exhibitions - "Undress," "Unseen" and "Pool Party" - which run June 3 through November 19, 2017, in Berlin's Helmut Newton Foundation. Displaying controversial images by three pioneers of nude photography, Helmut Newton, Mario Testino, and Jean Pigozzi, the show transforms visitors into casual voyeurs.
By the pool (with Bono and Jack Nicholson)
"It was Helmut's wish to invite other photographers to exhibit in the foundation, and we carry out his will even posthumously," explained Matthias Harder, the curator of the museum. "Helmut pushed the boundaries, he was always on edge, and Testino was inspired by him as he told us several times. They both used to visit Pigozzi's famous pool parties, so he was a natural choice, too," Harder added.
The name of Helmut Newton's portion of the show, "Unseen," draws from the fact that many of the dozens of images have never been previously exhibited. Fashion, portraiture and nudes are three key genres on display, but visitors also get an insight into the making of some of his legendary shots.
A thrilling body of work
Mario Testino, one of the world's most famous fashion photographers, is represented by a portfolio of 50 images in his segment called "Undressed." As Harder pointed out, the site-specific installation with huge, blown-up pictures create a sort of a body landscape. "It's a metaphorical undressing of Mario Testino as we dive deep into his archive and his working practice," said Harder.
When gods descent
Although Jean Pigozzi's "Pool Party" series occupies the least space with 35 selected images, his candid shots from his Villa Dorane on France's Cap d'Antibes are no less entertaining: There is Elizabeth Taylor sipping her cocktail in a dressing gown, Mick Jagger reading a newspaper, or Helmut Newton pointing his camera toward Pigozzi's lens.
Scandals come in threes
The project features photography from the late 1960s to this day, but it doesn't just capture the spirit of the time. "What I love about the three exhibitions is that you can see many people in images by all three photographers," Harder told DW. "You see Nadja Auermann, a famous German model, depicted by each artist in a completely different situation, for instance."
Devil wears YSL
As the show curator, Harder emphasized that nudity is surprisingly closely tied to fashion: "Newton started smuggling nudity into his images since the early 1970s, and his work was favored by fashion magazines. And what goes into fashion, goes into society." In the Newton's photo above, Yves Saint Laurent is seen working with a model in his Paris atelier.
Despite its explicit content, Harder is not worried about a negative reaction to the exhibition by the public and expects 80,000 people to visit: "People don't go to museums to see Madonnas to get offended. Just like the classic masters, Newton, Testino and Pigozzi create timeless pieces of art. Museums are places that allow us to explore what might seem outrageous outside of their walls."