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20 Years of SUMO

An introduction by Matthias Harder

“Twenty years ago, in 1999, TASCHEN published its first monumental art book: Helmut Newton’s SUMO. It had the exceptionally large format of 70 x 50 cm (28 x 20 in.) and was published as a limited edition of 10,000 copies, all signed by the photographer himself. The book came with a custom metal stand designed by Philippe Starck. A copy of the SUMO was presented at the Frankfurt Book Fair, signed by most of Newton’s world-renowned subjects. Shortly after, it was sold at a charity auction in Berlin for 620,000 DM, thus becoming the most expensive book of the 20th century—another superlative.

Ten years ago, in 2009, the Helmut Newton Foundation organised an appropriately unconventional exhibition dedicated to this legendary publication. Each of the book’s 464 pages were framed and arranged in three rows, one above the other. In contrast to leafing through the book page by page, visitors could stand among the hundreds of photographs, seeing the whole book at once.

Now, another ten years later, the Helmut Newton Foundation and TASCHEN celebrate the SUMO’s enduring legacy. As before, an exhibition at the Foundation in Berlin will display the book’s pages in order of their appearance in the book. A new XL edition, the result of a project conceived by Helmut Newton and revised by his wife June, will also be available—a spectacular tribute to the larger-than-life Helmut, now in a friendly format.

In both the XL edition and the Berlin exhibition, we encounter Newton’s work in its broad, irresistible range: from his Big Nudes and Sie kommen series to shoots for Vogue, Queen, Nova, Elle, Stern and Vanity Fair, as well as portraits of renowned figures from Liz Taylor and Jodie Foster to Salvador Dalí and Andy Warhol.

What Newton has passed on to us is an artistic document of the times, sophisticated, challenging, trendsetting—even for the next generation. He was perhaps the most published and most talked about photographer ever. Up until his death, he was booked by the most prestigious magazines and famous designers; his work fascinated and polarised and is still doing so today. All of this is reflected in the incomparable SUMO and the Helmut Newton Foundation’s exhibitions—and through his work, Newton lives on.”

– Matthias Harder, Director at the Helmut Newton Foundation in Berlin

The Helmut Newton, SUMO exhibition is on from June 7 – November 10, 2019.