Keyes Showcases Work By ‘The Original Mad Man’

An exhibit of ad work by the late Bert Stern opens Saturday.
An exhibit of ad work by the late Bert Stern opens Saturday.

Keyes Art Gallery of East Hampton will present “Bert Stern: Shapes & Symbols, Early Advertising Works 1953 to 1970,” opening on Saturday, August 4, in association with The Bert Stern Trust and Galerie 36.

The solo exhibition featuring the famed American photographer will focus on his advertising and fashion work throughout the 1950s and ’60s. Many of these images will be displayed for the first time outside of their original publications and magazines, allowing the public to appreciate Stern’s work for its full artistic value.

The late icon, Bert Stern, lived his life behind the lens from 1929 to 2013. A Brooklyn native, the self-taught photographer became mesmerized with a camera after coming across a photograph by Irving Penn, whom he’d later photograph himself. Years later, while working in the mailroom of Look magazine, he befriended magazine director, Stanley Kubrick, which led to many of Stern’s iconic works — the movie poster for Lolita, starring Sue Lyon, and Cleopatra, starring Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton.

Stern emerged as one of the top advertising photographers when he redefined advertising imagery during the onset of the ’50s and moved into the Golden Age of the ’60s, rightfully nicknaming him the “Original Mad Man.” In 1955, Stern broke the mold in ad snapshots. He headed to Egypt for one of his first noteworthy assignments for Smirnoff Vodka. During the shoot he creatively captured a martini glass placed on the sand, pyramid in the distance, and the inverted shape of the pyramid reflected on the martini glass. The ad tagline read: “Driest of the Dry.”

Stern is also remembered for his raw photographs of Marilyn Monroe, taken for Vogue a mere six weeks prior to her death.

In 2016, three years after Stern died in his Manhattan apartment, the Bert Stern Trust was established, led by his wife, Shannah Leumeister Stern. The Trust carries on his works so that future generations will know, understand, and appreciate Stern’s legacy. Back in 1992, Stern purchased the historic Sybil Douglas House in Sag Harbor, where he shot thousands of images. Under the Trust, there are plans to preserve this home and turn it into the Bert Stern Foundation, furthering the education of his photography.

The opening will be Saturday, August 4, from 6 to 8 PM, with an invite only exhibit, and his work will remain on view at the Keyes Gallery on Main Street in East Hampton through September 8. Daily hours are 10 AM to 6 PM.

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