Sunday, December 27, 2009
Should you happen to get out at the wrong side of Tiergarten Bahnhof in Berlin, you might fall prey to the temptation of visiting Helmut Newton’s Museum and grasp immediately the magnitude of this half baked fetishist ego-trip in front of the famous four large nudes that tower on the entrance hall. Somebody other than himself took his work very seriously and grundlichly runs the institution – typified by a grandeur that vaguely echoes Leny Riefenstahl’s Olympia with a much heavier and blatantly laid eroticism - as smoothly as a Mercedes Benz drives. The master dead, here lays the memorabilia.
We all enjoyed the party of his life while it lasted, although the greater majority of us was confined to the humiliating role of paying voyeurs, barely allowed to peep through the holes that his photographs provided into a forbiddingly exclusive – if in any way real – glamour world of luxury and classy sexual deviation, mostly in brilliant black and white. But now that it is over, as he was struck at last by heart failure in the midst of murderous LA traffic at the wheel of a ridiculous custom made car, surely the time must have come to look at his legacy in earnest. But it isn’t.
Monumental celebrations of his oeuvre were well on their way in his lifetime. His good friend Taschen published a huge book called with typical Newtonian logic SUMO, collecting the best of his beautiful and most titillating photo provocations. The book was prohibitively expensive and came with its own display table, designed by Philip Stark. The lot, I was lucky enough to flip through the book daringly placed in the reception area of an ad agency shortly after publication, was actually a little wobbly. The sheer mass of paper would have called for even a larger base, an iron structure by Eiffel springs to mind as possibly adequate to compensate for this other Newtonian (no relation) force of attraction, that of Gravity. Anyway, a big book in many respects.
Let us all rejoice, a smaller but still substantial version of Sumo is now available at a fraction of the original price and weight. Should you feel a little scroogey and obnoxious after the sweet overwhelming goodness of Christmas, you could buy yourself a copy and feel a little naughty and quite sophisticated.