Richard Avedon

June 1, 2024 – Oct. 6, 2024
Nastassja Kinski, actor, Los Angeles, California, June 14, 1981 Photograph by Richard Avedon © The Richard Avedon Foundation
Kunsthal Rotterdam is presenting a large-scale retrospective of the American photographer Richard Avedon (1923-2004). With over a hundred and thirty photographs, the exhibition Richard Avedon: Relationships sheds light on Avedon’s groundbreaking contribution to fashion photography as well as his distinctive photographic portraits. His powerful, expressive portraits capture people like the writer Truman Capote, the actress Marlene Dietrich, the musician Bob Dylan, the artist Andy Warhol, and the actress and model Nastassja Kinski. Relationships is a celebration of Avedon's innovative power and creativity and shows how the photographer was able to convey the complexity and vulnerability of human relationships in the photographic frame like no other.

Book your tickets

Richard Avedon is considered a pioneer in the fields of fashion and portrait photography. Over the course of his career, Avedon would often photograph his models on multiple occasions and at different stages of their lives, thus revealing the developments in the sitter’s character and the unique relationship between the photographer and his subject. The exhibition Richard Avedon: Relationships presents the master photographer’s extensive and varied body of work, offering insight into his working methods and zooming in on how, to this day, Avedon’s characteristic portraits of world-famous actors, dancers, artists, and literary greats are still image-defining in photography.

Dynamics and glamour

Richard Avedon began his career in 1944, working for leading magazines like Harper's Bazaar and Vogue. Here he caused a revolution by photographing his models in realistic and dynamic settings that sharply contrasted with the static poses that were commonplace in fashion photography at that time. With his cinematic images, Avedon was able to create a narrative that transports the viewer to a world of glamour and entertainment. The  photographer forged unique relationships with his models. Over the course of his career, Avedon frequently photographed the American supermodel Dovima. Their close collaboration resulted in the groundbreaking fashion photo Dovima with Elephants (1955), in which Avedon positioned Dovima — dressed in a gown by Dior — between two elephants, thereby literally highlighting the contrast between beauty and beast. The portrait of Nastassja Kinski (1981) that Avedon made for American Vogue, also became a world-wide icon, especially because of the timeless sense of eroticism the image conveys.


Typical of Avedon’s style is the way in which he positioned his model against a characteristic, white background to completely zoom in on the individual. Each work offers a unique opportunity to get up close and personal with the subjects in a way typically reserved for partners or family members. With his portraits, Avedon places you so close to the sitter that even the tiniest wrinkles, lines, and hairs are clearly visible. His works exemplify how Avedon succeeded in uncovering the emotions of his subjects and reveal the photographer’s unrelenting desire to render each individual detail of the people in front of his lens.


The portraits of the American poet and writer Allen Ginsberg illustrate that Avedon was unrivalled when it came to translating the mutual relationships of his sitters into images. Posing in the nude for the first, intimate portrait (1963), Ginsberg and his partner seem very relaxed, while the family portrait (1970) Avedon made a couple of years later accurately conveys the awkwardness between Ginsberg and his family. With the double portrait of the Italian writer and director Michelangelo Antonioni and his wife Enrica (1993), Avedon once again demonstrated his mastery in capturing the relationship between two people in a portrait: the mutual dependency and unconditional support are showing through in the pose, highlighting the couple’s intimate connection. 

About Richard Avedon

Richard Avedon (1923-2004) was born in New York City. During the Second World War he joined the U.S. Merchant Marine to serve as an assistant photographer. In 1945 his professional career as a photographer took flight and he started working for Harper's Bazaar and Vogue. After that, he also began working for a variety of other clients, including The New Yorker and Rolling Stone. Avedon is known for the powerful and expressive portraits he made against a characteristic white background. Over the course of his career, many celebrities and prominent figures from the worlds of art, politics, and entertainment appeared in front of Avedon’s camera. The photographer also ran his own commercial studio in which he collaborated with renowned fashion brands like Calvin Klein, Revlon, and Versace. His work has been shown at venues like The Metropolitan Museum of Art, MoMA, and International Center of Photography (New York), the National Portrait Gallery (Canberra), and Foam (Amsterdam), and is part of collections like that of the Victoria & Albert Museum (London). During his career Avedon established The Richard Avedon Foundation. 


The exhibition Richard Avedon: Relationships is realised in collaboration with curator Dr. Rebecca Senf of the Center for Creative Photography in Tucson at the University of Arizona and The Richard Avedon Foundation in New York. 


The exhibition will be accompanied by the English catalogue Richard Avedon, Relationships, 196 pages, ISBN 9788857248400. This publication is available at the Kunsthal Shop and via for €34.95.

Book your tickets


1.Truman Capote, New York City, October 10, 1955.jpg
Truman Capote, writer, New York City, October 10, 1955. Photograph by Richard Avedon © The Richard Avedon Foundation
Michelangelo Antonioni, director, and his wife Enrica, Rome, May 18, 1993. Photograph by Richard Avedon © The Richard Avedon Foundation
10. Richard Avedon, self-portrait, Provo, Utah, August 20, 1980 (20-02-24).jpg
Richard Avedon, self-portrait, Provo, Utah, August 20, 1980. Photograph by Richard Avedon © The Richard Avedon Foundation
Friday open until 22:00
Celebrate 40 years of Summer Carnival during Friday Night LIVE on 19 July. All exhibitions will be open during the evening.
Book your tickets
Kunsthal & Cookies
For an optimal website visit, we use functional and analytical cookies. To show videos and advertisements based on your interests, your consent is required for the use of marketing cookies. You can change this at any time. View our cookie statement and privacy statement.
These cookies enables the website to work like it should. These cookies are not optional.
These cookies are set by third parties, like YouTube or Vimeo.
These cookies allow us to measure the usage of the website and improve it accordingly.
These cookies allow our advertising partners to offer content tailormade for you.
When you disable categories, some functionality in the website might not work correctly. It's possible to change your preferences at any time. More information.