mario testino's new exhibition is filled with big, sexy, nudes

Mario Testino’s Undressed at the Helmut Newton Foundation in Berlin is a homage to the sexy and glam larger-than-life nudity of Helmut Newton himself.

by Felix Petty
09 June 2017, 9:43pm

Mario Testino's new exhibition is very sexy. It is called Undressed, which is a great title for an exhibition full of pictures of undressed people. And pictures of people undressing, people wearing very little, people wearing just enough, people clothed but still, in the parlance of The Daily Mail, leaving nothing to the imagination -- just a shirt or a towel. A coat with nothing underneath, opened at exactly the right spot. A flash of nipple. A whisp of pubic hair.

Yet Mario's skill with the nude is that: no matter how much he reveals, he always leaves everything to the imagination (it takes a certain kind of person, to, when confronted with a naked woman, have no imagination).

"Seduction is more interesting than sex," he says in an interview with uber fashion mensch Carine Roitfeld in the exhibition's catalogue. A quote that goes some way to describe the contents of Undressed. It's sexy, and a little chaste, not visceral but sculptural. Controlled, rather than wild. There's no actual sex in his images. Two people pose like classical Greek or Roman gods, rather than entwined lovers. The sex is appeal between viewer and picture. It's all in your imagination. Mario's appeal is in his sexiness, of course, the way his images occupy that margin between fine art and smut, what you see and what you think.

Undressed is an homage, of sorts, to Helmut Newton. It's on display at the moment at the Helmut Newton Foundation in Berlin. Helmut was a photographer, like Mario, who took a great picture of a naked person.

Helmut, in his exhibitions, would print his images out life-sized, he called them Big Nudes. Mario goes one better than Helmut's Big Nudes: Undressed goes larger-than-life. It should really be called, Bigger Nudes! Plastered directly onto the walls of the gallery, with no intermediary. No intermediary, seems to be the aim of the big nude photography game, and is where Mario's work succeeds.

If fashion photography is selling the clothes, then what does nudity sell. Not sex. But imagination. Seduction. Freedom. Sex appeal. Selling whatever you can imagine. 

Mario Testino Undressed is on display at the Helmut Newton Foundation in Berlin until November 19


Text Felix Petty

helmut newton
mario testino