Annenberg Space Brings Helmut Newton Back to L.A.

Helmut Newton Cindy Crawford
Mike Windle/Getty Images

It’s summertime, but that didn’t prevent the Annenberg Space for Photography from staging L.A.’s first major exhibition of Helmut Newton’s photos.

The famed photographer, of course, always took up winter residence at the Chateau Marmont, where he died in 2004 when his car crashed into a wall at the Hollywood hotel.

The exhibition is titled “Helmut Newton: White Women, Sleepless Nights, Big Nudes.” But one of the more intriguing photos on the way into the Century City museum features none of those things. It’s a photo of Newton’s bureau at the Chateau, and it prominently displays a pair of handcuffs carefully placed center frame, as if to say, “Oh, isn’t this terribly wicked?”

Today, Newton’s fixation on S&M and various fetishes looks a bit quaint. He came to prominence as an artist as the sexual revolution began to solidify and then ripen and then rot. He documented it all.

But those handcuffs. They’re surrounded by a photo of Newton with Billy Wilder, a copy of The New Yorker, as well as books about or by Herb Ritts, Man Ray, Alice Springs. Stuck in the middle of all this rather predictable, tony stuff is a copy of Bob Evans’ “The Kid Stays in the Picture.”

Newton obviously loved the gaudy side of Hollywood, too.

And who should appear at the photo exhibition’s launch party on June 27 but Evans himself. He wore his pajamas for the occasion. Or at least they looked like somebody’s pajamas: silk on top, velvet on bottom, and gray all over.

Evans and his two companions sauntered through the exhibition, but about halfway through the show the movie legend tired and looked for a seat. He quickly found one in the screening room, where he watched the documentary “Provocateur” in which Evans revealed that Newton “procured more women for me than any man I’ve known.”

Evans also said, “Women wanted to meet Helmut Newton more than anyone else in Hollywood.”

That bit of hyperbole aside, a lot of women in Hollywood and elsewhere did take their clothes off for Newton. “Provocateur” makes clear that after he finished a fashion shoot for Vogue, “he always did nudes.”

The result is “Helmut Newton: White Women, Sleepless Nights, Big Nudes,” which opens June 29.