William Klein: Afrique on view at Howard Greenberg Gallery




William Klein: Afrique. Independence parade, Dakar, Senegal, 1963; Chromogenic print; printed 2022; Image size: 28 1/8 x 41 5/8 inches; Paper size: 30 3/4 x 44 3/8 inches. © William Klein, Courtesy Howard Greenberg Gallery, New York

Howard Greenberg Gallery will open its doors to William Klein: Afrique from June 23 through September 17, 2022. The exhibition highlights a rediscovered body of work by William Klein, one of the leading photographers of the 20th century.

In 1963, Klein traveled to Africa on assignment for the British men’s magazine, Town, and the Weekly Telegraph. From Dakar to Niger to Senegal, Klein made photographs with his bold inimitable style. Some of the images were published, but most remained as negatives and slides in storage and were never printed or exhibited to the public. The work was recently rediscovered in Klein’s Paris studio, and offers an extraordinary opportunity to witness Klein’s dynamic vision at work, using the powerful style that brought acclaim for his photographs of New York, Rome, Tokyo and Moscow. WILLIAM KLEIN: AFRIQUE will survey more than 25 prints in the series.

William Klein: Afrique. Ouagadougou, Upper Volta, 1963; Chromogenic print; printed 2022; Image size: 13 1/2 x 19 7/8 inches; Paper size: 22 5/8 x 16 1/8 inches. © William Klein, Courtesy Howard Greenberg Gallery, New York

Klein’s work, which extends into painting, film, graphic design and more,  is currently on view in a retrospective at the International Center of Photography (ICP) entitled WILLIAM KLEIN: YES through September 12.

David Campany, the curator of the Klein exhibition at ICP noted, “William Klein’s images from various African countries around 1963 are an important aspect of his work. As a street photographer, he had been acutely aware of the complex power structures of race, locally and globally. His 1956 book New York was clear about the city’s divides and no American publisher would touch it. Experiences in Africa sharpened his views further, informing his run of landmark documentary films – Cassius Clay, 1964; The Pan-African Festival of Algiers, 1969; Eldridge Cleaver: Back Panther, 1970; and The Little Richard Story, 1980. WILLIAM KLEIN: AFRIQUE is a gathering of images rarely seen beyond a few magazine features in the 1960s.”

Howard Greenberg, who has represented Klein for more than 30 years, remembered seeing some prints from Dakar in 1990. “When David Campany told me he was selecting an Africa image to print large and introduce the (ICP) show, I decided to explore. I found that Klein had spent a considerable amount of time working in Africa in 1963. Klein’s assistant Pierre-Louis dug out black and white and color work to show me. There was enough for a good show of never-before-seen images. The synergy between interest in Africa and Campany’s use of an African image sealed the deal for me. Now we have a show!”

Born in New York City in 1928, William Klein’s legendary career began in 1954 when Alexander Liberman, then the creative director of Condé Nast, saw an exhibition of Klein’s work in Paris, where Klein was living and had briefly studied with the painter Fernand Léger.

Returning to New York as a photographer for Vogue magazine, Klein let loose on the city, taking fashion photography in a whole new direction; capturing beauty and the grotesque all within wide-angle and telephoto shots. Taking the models out of the studio and onto the streets, his revolutionary techniques pioneered a new vision.

Widely acknowledged as a significant innovator in the history and design of the photo book, Klein published his first book Life is Good and Good For You in New York in 1956. Capturing the rough and tumble of daily life, Klein’s brutally honest images caused a major sensation. Three more books were published, each with photography from a different city, Rome in 1958-59, followed in 1964 by Moscow and Tokyo 1961.

William Klein is also an accomplished and highly respected filmmaker, beginning his foray into the moving image in 1958 with the first Pop film Broadway by Light. Klein went on to produce feature films and documentaries including Qui-Êtes Vous Polly Maggoo?, 1966, a satire about the fashion world; Far From Vietnam, 1967; Muhammad Ali, The Greatest, 1969; and The Little Richard Story, 1980. His last film Messiah, 1999, reveals on an epic scale a summary of the themes throughout his artistic career.

The recipient of numerous awards, Klein was honored with a Commander of Arts and Letters in France in 1989, the Medal of the Century by the Royal Photographic Society in London in 1999, and he received the International Center of Photography Infinity Award for Lifetime Achievement in 2007. In 2012, he received the Outstanding Contribution to Photography Award at the Sony World Photography Awards.

Work by William Klein is in the collections of many institutions including The Metropolitan Museum of Art, The Museum of Modern Art, and the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York, the J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles, and the Centre Pompidou in Paris. At the age of 94, Klein lives and works in Paris, France.

William Klein: Afrique will be on view from June 23 through September 17, 2022 at Howard Greenberg Gallery, 41 East 57th Street, Suite 801, NYC.