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Helmut Newton Photography with the Highest Auction Prices Ever

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June 18, 2016
Gordana Sretenović. Teaching English and writing for a living. Obsessed with Jack Kerouac and Allen Ginsberg. Desires to travel the world and not have a permanent address. Occasionally writes poetry.

Helmut Newton photography is not easy to sum up, especially if we know that he did not only revolutionize but set up completely new rules of photographic style. When talking about the photographer of Helmut Newton’s caliber it is inevitable to mention his vast variety of photographic endeavors, from portraits, nudes, all the way to fashion photography, Newton is considered the reigning master of the snapshot world. The Helmut Newton photography is women-oriented, it empowers them and gives them the highest spot in the society. He has asserted them as the stronger sex and his passion and obsession with women led him to declare himself as a feminist.

Newton photography is very specific. The famous photographer did not need to use too much equipment to create, he despised artificial lighting, he loved photographing in difficult light conditions – especially at night – and always strived to get the best of the light source he had, whether it was the sun, the street lights, or any other for that matter, all except studio lighting. He found the link between the family of natural sources and the man-made methods of creating astounding imagery he perfected for years. This practice was hard for the models as the longer shutter speed required them to stay still for longer, but it proved to be especially fruitful for his career, resulting in captivating images that many fashion photographers tried to recreate. He stayed away from the studios and was not a fan of white paper background and perfect lighting. In his own words:

“It’s that I don’t like white paper backgrounds. A woman does not live in front of white paper. She lives on the street, in a motor car, in a hotel room. I also like the light that tends to exist in hotel rooms. I do not like strobes. Plus, there’s room service. But anything is better than a studio. And I like to have certain objects in my photos: electric plugs, wires, telephones, TV sets.”

Helmut Newton saw women as human beings, not coat hangers or soulless subjects. He saw their personalities, their inner desires, their unique sex appeal, their hearts, and souls. That is why it is no wonder that some of his most famous works are nudes, sometimes shocking, controversial, verging on pornography, but always utterly captivating and enchanting, offering something more than a naked body and a pretty face to the viewers.

The Helmut Newton photography is nothing short of amazing, and the recent trends of the art market do prove it to be true. His works have been sold for quite the large sums of money, and owning an original Newton is considered prestigious in the art collector’s world. Furthermore, Sumo, a monograph published in 1999, the largest book of the 20th century, was sold in 10,000 copies for the astounding £6,000 each, and the first edition, signed by 80 celebrities photographed by Newton was later sold at an auction for $430,000. The 30kg Sumo became known as one of the most sought-after photography books, further asserting Helmut Newton as the “king of nudes” and the king of fashion photography.

With these thoughts in our minds, we have decided to present to you ten most expensive pieces of the Helmut Newton photography ever sold in auctions. So, if you’re ready, scroll down to see the countdown. Featured image: Helmut Newton via emaze.com

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Big Nude III, Paris, 1980 (1982)

Big Nude III, Newton’s most recognized and most representative nude was executed as one part of a complex composition created for the French Vogue magazine. Helmut Newton drew inspiration from the press pictures he had seen in the offices of anti-terrorist police in Germany, in which the life-size photographs of suspects helped the police get familiar with the targets they were trying to arrest. The photographer decided to recreate a similar scene, but instead of wanted terrorists, his subjects were nude women. The images from the Big Nude series were exhibited in the Newton Photographies 1980-1981 at the Galerie Daniel Templon in Paris, and the Big Nude III was the poster for the exhibition, later becoming the representative example of Newton nude photography.

Big Nude III, Paris, 1980 (1982) was sold at Christie’s London auction house for $311,300 in 2005. Check out more details on the piece and the pricing here.

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Self-Portrait with Wife and Models, ‘Vogue’ Studios, Paris (1981)

One of the most known pieces of Helmut Newton photography with the title Self-Portrait with Wife and Models was executed in 1981. The image is a depiction of the master of photography himself reflected in the mirror with a nude model in front of him and his wife sitting behind it, overlooking the shooting. We can see the backside of the model, and her full frontal beauty reflected in the mirror, and a pair of legs wearing high heels, reminding us that fashion was the initial focus of this photoshoot at Vogue studio in the city of light. However, this image is so much more than that. It shows Newton’s true observational skills, his keen eye for detail, and his ability to capture the right moment – something which the photographers have strived for ever since the invention of the camera.

This recognizable piece was sold at Christie’s London in 2012 for $346,200. To see more details on the auction(s) and the piece, click here.

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Portfolio (1999)

This unique and extensive portfolio was described by the artist as a “’one off’ photo album” and is comprised of one hundred and two pictures assembled by Newton himself for the collector Gert Elfering. In Helmut Newton’s words: “There will be one only A.P. which will go into the Foundation-Museum wherever this will be.” This basically means that the second set of his portfolio was never created, making this one truly unique. In reality, this set would be virtually impossible to recreate since it includes a great number of Polaroids which are by their nature unique, and a number of vintage color work from Newton’s archive, impossible to reduplicate.

Helmut Newton Portfolio was sold at Christie’s New York for $374,500 in 2008. See more details here.

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Big Nude III, Paris (1980)

Big Nude III is on the list again! And no wonder since it is one of the prime examples of Newton photography. As mentioned before, Newton found inspiration for this image in the offices of the special division of German police dedicated to capturing the Bader-Meinhof terrorists. The result of his inspiration are the images of nude girls in high heels, with little or no makeup, and their natural hair. The series was first entitled “The Terrorists” before being changed to the “Big Nudes.” Helmut Newton said: “I had always been fascinated by turn-of-the-century police photographs.” And aren’t we glad that he was for this fascination brought to life some of the most amazing nudes ever created?

This piece was sold at Christie’s London for $380,000 in 2007. Click here to see more details.

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Private Property, Suite I, II, III (1984)

Helmut Newton created his worldwide known Private Property portfolio in order to offer an anthology of pictures that would serve as the representatives of his achievements of the ten-year period before its creation. He chose forty-five images, presented in three suites of fifteen. Each suite is the representation of Newton’s photography that demonstrates his unique style and the way in which he married fashion, portrait, and erotic photography. This portfolio includes some of the most iconic Newton images such as Woman into Man, Office Love, Elsa Peretti in a ‘Bunny’ Costume by Halston, and Self-Portrait with Wife and Models, to name a few.

Private Property, Suite I, II, III was sold at Phillips New York for $389,000 in 2014. Click here to see more details on the auctions.

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Big Nude II, Paris (1980)

Big Nude II, Paris is one of the most important pieces of Newton photography he managed to capture. Executed in 1980, this image was created for the Parisian Vogue, and it reveals Newton’s unique sensibility and his photographic skills. The frontal pose of the model speaks directly to the viewer, inviting him/her to investigate the light play and the soft shadow on the photograph, and to see the image as the raw representation of Newton’s photographic work. Set against a simple background, so not typical for Helmut Newton, the Big Nude II offers a new dimension of his works and makes the viewers focus on what he wanted to achieve with this series.

Big Nude II, Paris (1980) was sold at Christie’s Paris in 2015 for $404, 400. Click here to see additional details on the auction.

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Big Nude III: Henrietta (1980)

Inspired by the German Police’s life-size identity photos of political terrorists, I began in 1980… my most successful series of nudes…” – Helmut Newton

Big Nude III: Henrietta is one of Newton’s most recognizable, most widely-published, and most representative images ever created. It presents the concept of Helmut Newton woman, a strong, assertive, and effortlessly confrontational. The model for this picture is Henriette Allais, half Cherokee, half French model who charmed Newton who worked with her between 1980 and 1981, immortalizing her in his Big Nudes series. Henrietta continues to live on in the most celebrated Newton photograph, forever staying young, beautiful, and powerful.

Big Nude III: Henrietta was sold at Christie’s New York in 2008 for $482,500. Find out more about the auction here.

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Sie Kommen, Dressed, Paris and Naked, Paris, 1981

Sie Kommen is a diptych comprised of four separate large-scale panels and a part of Naked and Dressed series that Newton executed for the French and Italian Vogue. Sie Kommen was published in both Vogues in October (Italian) and November (French). The production of these images was particularly challenging as the models for the Italian Vogue were shot in daylight that kept changing constantly, and the images for French Vogue were even more complex as they required perfect choreographing and matching the poses to the most minute details. Sie Kommen is one of the most recognizable fashion photography images, copied and reproduced numerous times, that inspired a whole generation of fashion photographers.

This piece was sold at Christie’s New York in 2008 for $662,500. Click here to see more details.

Sie Kommen (Dressed) and Sie Kommen (Naked), 1981

The diptych ‘Sie Kommen (Dressed)’ And ‘Sie Kommen (Naked)’ executed in 1981 definitely is one of Helmut Newton’s most known pieces. The photographer briefly explained the production process of this image and what the photo set looked like: “The Naked and Dressed [series] presented probably the biggest technical problems…there was a considerable time lag between the two versions. I had to match the exact movement of the model to each version with the help of many Polaroids.” The Dressed part of the diptych shows the models wearing fashion garments by Emmanuelle Khahn, Karl Lagerfeld for Chloé, Angelo Tarlazzi, and Fournier. Truly a squad worthy of the Vogue magazine.

Sie Kommen was sold at Sotheby’s New York in April of 2016 for $670,000. See more details here.

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Walking Women, Paris (1981)

“I love women, I admire them greatly, and when people say ‘you use them like objects of desire,’ [I think to myself,] ‘well, I hope they are objects of desire.’ It would be terrible if they weren’t.” – Helmut Newton

Newton did not objectify women for his own pleasure, but for their own instead. He empowered women, he showed their true magnificence and beauty in each of his works. He depicted their sensuality, their tall, statuesque figures, their womanly curves, their unique personalities. Newton photography presented women as the rule-makers instead of rule-obeying, weak persons. He created a microcosm in which women could live out their fantasies and feel powerful and assertive. He made women feel like true women – unapologetic in their beauty, uninterested in the opinions of men. Newton’s often provocative images were not created for the pleasure of his clients, as he said:

“If there’s one thing I hate it’s good taste. To me, it’s a dirty word.”

Walking Women, Paris was sold at Phillips New York auction house in 2015 for $900,000. Find out more about the auction here.

All images used for illustrative purposes only.