Some photographers leave an indelible impression on the field and the public consciousness with their style or subjects. Like Helmut Newton, subject of a major exhibition at the Bank Austria Kunstforum Wien.
- Full retrospective covering around 6 decades of photography
- Features some 250 works
- Includes both iconic favourites and little known photos
- Texts in English & German
- Runs Oct 19, 2022 – Jan 15, 2023
- See also:
Helmut Newton Legacy
(Helmut Newton; Fashion, Melbourne, 1955 © Helmut Newton Foundation)
October 31st, 2020 was the 100th birthday of the Berlin-born photographer Helmut Newton (1920 – 2004). A perfect date for a suitable exhibition, were it not for the peculiar circumstances of the times.
Thankfully, the Bank Austria Kunstforum Wien’s retrospective, a cooperation with the Helmut Newton Foundation, is a pleasure delayed and not denied.
The Helmut Newton Legacy exhibition fills a winter 2022/2023 slot with some 250 works that mark the full range of Newton’s creative output.
Smartphones mean we’re all photographers these days. But only a few have lifted themselves above the morass to establish that elusive name recognition. Newton is, obviously, one of them, thanks to, for example, his fashion and portrait work.
The exhibition traces Newton’s chronological and thematic photographic journey from the early years and the crystallisation of his style in 1960s Paris onwards, with an emphasis on his fashion shots, nudes, and portraits.
As such, you have plenty of opportunity to judge, for example, his testing of the edges of social acceptability, morality, and creative possibilities. Or his dance between commercialism and art.
Newton himself said, when asked to define his photographs in a 1997 interview with Alain Elkann:
Each one speaks for itself. Some people hate them and hate what I do. Others think they are beautiful.
(Old and new)
The aesthetics of the fashion shoots truly seem to come from a different time. Perhaps our perspective on lifestyles and aspirations have become recalibrated by COVID and Ukraine. Today’s world seems to confer an alternate universe feel on many of the photos.
Better minds than mine can comment on the gender politics around Newton’s work. I left with an impression of strength exuded by most of the images of women, though less so in the more avant garde fashion photos.
(It felt curiously apt that the male portrait photo that stood out for me among the likes of Jagger and Lagerfeld was of an androgynous David Bowie from 1983.)
Some photos are instantly recognisable, while others make a rare appearance in public. The combination adds depth, context and some surprises to those (like me) without a comprehensive understanding of Newton’s work.
And the final gallery offers a simple testament to Newton’s legacy: a series of magazine and newspaper covers from the likes of La Stampa and The Guardian featuring his work; several of the featured photos hang on the walls you just passed by.
Dates, tickets, & tips
Enjoy Helmut Newton’s legacy from October 19th, 2022 to January 15th, 2023.
The Bank Austria Kunstforum Wien only opens during its major exhibitions, so a ticket to the institution is essentially a ticket to the exhibition. A Vienna Pass gets you in once for free.
Vienna seems to show an ever-increasing number of photo exhibitions these days. Other highlights overlapping at least partly with Newton include:
- Portrait photography at the Albertina Modern: The Face exhibition also includes works by Newton
- Gregor Sailer’s photos of inaccessible architecture at the Kunst Haus Wien (which always has a photography focus for its main exhibition)
If you visit the Newton exhibition from mid-November to late December, you can enjoy two nearby Christmas markets: the Altwiener Christkindlmarkt opposite and the Weihnachtsmarkt Am Hof just a short walk away.
The former offers great photo motifs against the backdrop of the Schottenstift church and abbey (same for the latter with the Kirche am Hof church in the background).
How to get there
Follow the travel tips in the main museum article.
Address: Freyung 8, 1010 Vienna