Announcing the Hong Kong Debut of ULTIMATE STEVEN KLEIN

Announcing the Hong Kong Debut of ULTIMATE STEVEN KLEIN

An inimitable selection of Polaroids from the archives of one of contemporary photography’s most provocative artists.

An inimitable selection of Polaroids from the archives of one of contemporary photography’s most provocative artists.

Steven Klein, Madonna, Hollywood, CA (detail), 19 March 2006, unique color Polaroid 4x5 print. Editions, Photographs and Design.

Leading Phillips’ selection of photographs in our 14 June auction of Editions, Photographs & Design is ULTIMATE STEVEN KLEIN. This exciting debut of Phillips’ ULTIMATE platform in Hong Kong inaugurates an important new chapter for photographs.

Launched in 2014 as a highlight of the London Photographs sale, ULTIMATE is Phillips’ unique platform for promoting and selling exceptional photographs and photo-based works that are available only at Phillips. Hong Kong is the natural next step.

With ULTIMATE STEVEN KLEIN, Phillips presents an exclusive opportunity to celebrate the artist’s vision. Featured are Polaroids representing playful glimpses into the artist’s creative explorations with Kate Moss, Naomi Campbell, Claudia Schiffer, Madonna, David Bowie, Mick Jagger, Prince, Britney Spears, Justin Bieber, Brad Pitt, and Angelina Jolie. 

These 18 absolutely unique Polaroids have been carefully chosen by the artist to capture his creative process with startling immediacy. “They’re like my jewels in the vault,” he tells us. “One of a kind and close to my heart.” This is the first time that Steven Klein’s Polaroids will be seen in Asia. It is also the first-ever exhibition of this important artist in Hong Kong.



Tour of Highlights

Among the world's leading artists in all of photographs and film, Steven Klein casts his spell as a storyteller to shape era-defining moments and challenge our perception of his iconic subjects.

Klein created the majority of these Polaroids during editorial assignments for international publications, including W, Harper's Bazaar, L’Uomo Vogue and Interview between 1999 and 2006. As this captivating selection attests — Polaroids were the living moments at the center of his photographic practice.

Below we take you through the four distinct types featured in ULTIMATE STEVEN KLEIN — Type 100, Type 600, 4x5, and 8x10. Klein shot with a variety of cameras — including Hasselblad and Pentax — equipped with a particular back for Polaroid peel-apart film that gave him an instant one-to-one facsimile of what the camera saw. As exemplars of the Polaroid medium, the instant photographs in ULTIMATE STEVEN KLEIN serve as unique artifacts of analogue photography.


Brad Pitt & Angelina Jolie
Type 100 — Sheet 8.3 x 11.4 cm (3 1/4 x 4 1/2 in.)

Type 100 is a medium format Polaroid film that Klein utilizes here to maximal effect.

Steven Klein, Brad Pitt & Angelina Jolie, Palm Springs from Case Study #13, 25 March 2005, unique color Polaroid Type 100 print. Editions, Photographs and Design.

Klein’s subjects are his collaborators. And few more so than Brad Pitt, who presented constant opportunities for a more narrative, art-based approach. “[Pitt and Jolie] always worked together more collaboratively,” he recalls, “taking the time to explore new ways of self-expression with every project."

Klein always showed Polaroids to his sitters as he was shooting as a way to get them excited about the story as they built it. “It would open up the conversation to create a whole different environment of picture taking,” he says. “They would sometimes have suggestions.”

“I went to visit Brad on set while he was shooting Mr. and Mrs. Smith to discuss doing a story to promote the movie,” Klein says. “Brad wanted to create an idealistic view of an American family.”

Angelina Jolie plays Pitt’s wife in the film. A traditional middle-class couple, neither realizes the other is a secret assassin assigned to kill them.

Klein says, “We decided to set the story in the 1960s right before the Kennedy assassination. It depicts the idealism along with the conflicts and tensions of that era.”

This Polaroid for a 60-page portfolio story for W magazine powerfully distills the atmosphere of Klein’s legendary shoot.


Britney Spears
Type 600 — Sheet 10.7 x 8.7 cm (4 1/4 x 3 3/8 in.)

This is the original Polaroid integral film used in vintage Polaroid cameras.

Steven Klein, Britney Spears, Los Angeles, 14 July 2001, unique color Polaroid Type 600 print. Editions, Photographs and Design.

Hailed as the “Princess of Pop,” the American singer Britney Spears led the revival of teen pop during the late 1990s and early 2000s and went on to sell more than 150 million records worldwide, making her one of the best-selling musical artists of all time. 2003 represents a pivotal moment in her career, when she was transitioning to something entirely new.

“I met Britney,” Klein says, “after shooting Justin Timberlake for his first album cover. These Polaroids were taken during the shoot in LA for her third album.”

In that album, entitled Britney, Spears moves on from the teen pop style of her first two studio albums to embrace edgy new themes of adulthood, control, and sexuality. Klein was selected for the challenge in his creative exploration with Spears to find a language to capture this deeper, darker, and more empowered side of her nature.


4x5 — Sheet 14 x 11.4 cm (5 1/2 x 4 1/2 in.)

4x5 Polaroids are made with a pack-film back on medium format cameras.

Steven Klein, Madonna, Hollywood, CA, 19 March 2006, unique color Polaroid 4x5 print. Editions, Photographs and Design.

Klein has worked together with Madonna on over 50 shoots and she remains among his favorite collaborators. “From the very start,” he tells us, “there was an excitement of collaboration, the meeting of two souls with the same agenda.”

“Madonna asked me to do the opening video for her Confessions Tour,” he says. The seventh concert tour by the “Queen of Pop” — which she launched for her tenth studio album, Confessions on a Dance Floor (2005) — it was an epic and spectacular production revisiting Disco and 1970s music. Sixty shows and 1.2 million spectators worldwide made it the highest grossing tour by a female musical artist of all time.

“We both share a love for horses,” Klein says. “Madonna wanted to create a dynamic film that explored these equestrian motifs. This video project was combined with a 58-page story that was published in W magazine.” It was entitled, ‘Madonna Rides Again.’ Klein’s shoot for W celebrates the commanding presence of Madonna’s powerful femininity on the dancefloor and stage, her majestic physique and athletic prowess.  

Kate Moss
8x10 — Sheet 21.6 x 26.7 cm (8 1/2 x 10 1/2 in.)

Sitters would react differently to the different types of cameras, Klein observes. Typically, the larger format ones would have greater impact and command more respect, cueing them to pose for longer. 

Steven Klein, Kate Moss, New York City, 8 May 2003 unique color Polaroid 8x10 print. Editions, Photographs and Design.

“So lovely, Kate Moss — the one and only,” says Steven Klein of the legendary supermodel. “Kate provided the template in the 90s for the new breed of model but so unique was she that no one could match the contours of her modeling. She is always spot-on in every single frame you may snap.”

“This is a cover I was asked to shoot for a W issue where multiple photographers and artists were commissioned to create images of Kate Moss,” Klein tells us. “Rather than several of the same subject, I planned just one.”

The playfulness of Klein’s interactions with his sitters often gives rise to fresh and unexpected moments. One shoot was all he needed to create a moment we've never seen before — the beguiling humility of Moss's quirky, precocious candor.

David Bowie
Unique Composite of Two 8x10 Polaroids — Sheet 43.2 x 26.7 cm (17 x 10 1/2 in.)

Combining multiple Polaroids to create a single image allowed Klein to get close up to his sitter — he sees this as an important aspect of his work — and at the same time gives a wide-angle perspective without having to use a wide-angle lens. 

Steven Klein, David Bowie, New York City, 6 June 2003, unique composite of 2 color Polaroid 8x10 prints. Editions, Photographs and Design.

Speaking of this image, Klein tells us, “David Bowie and I had many discussions over the phone before we shot about what kind of visuals we would create. He suggested to create a visual story based on Jean Genet's Our Lady of the Flowers.”

Genet’s literary feat, which he wrote in the confines of his prison cell, takes flight into the poetic reverie of his imagination — in a deeply introspective exploration of a vibrant inner life fueled by fantasy and desire — and thereby transcends the grim circumstances of his situation. In keeping with the theme, we see a withdrawn Bowie sprawled on the floor of a derelict and gritty concrete prison cell, as he contemplates the epic immensity of his solitude. 

Klein’s story 'Overmodern' appeared in the September 2003 issue of L’Uomo Vogue to coincide with the release of Bowie’s album Reality, which explores themes of mortality and aging.

“I always try to turn icons inside out and get a different take on them,” says Klein. This soulful depiction of David Bowie — as far as one could get from the flamboyant glamour of Ziggy Stardust — encapsulates that achievement.