The American photographer Richard Avedon is best known for his portraiture and work within the fashion industry. Over five decades, he has worked with some of the greatest names in the industry – Versace and Christian Dior, to name a few. The Gagosian Gallery has somehow managed to select just 13 photographs from Avedon's extensive back-catalogue for this chic exhibition.

The space itself is minimal to the extreme. All details about the included work are supplied separately on paper, leaving the walls completely free from all distractions. The atmosphere is welcoming, but rather formal, and contrasts wildly to the jovial antics taking place within the picture frames. Models dance and leap through the photographs. Unlike the controlled perfection of most fashion shoots, these models look like they are actually enjoying themselves. They have been freed to express themselves and play the fashion fool, quite literally in Penelope Tree, suit by Ungaro, Paris studio (1968). A testament to Avedon's character, the smiles all feel genuine.

The title of the show is a little misleading: yes, it is only women who appear in these images, but this collection is more appropriately linked by its theatricality. The over-the-top gestures and exaggerated motions are what make these images unique. Photographs from 1965 all the way to 2000 work seamlessly together because of their energetic spirit. The importance of clothing to the fashion genre is emphasised by crediting designers in the title of each photograph; however, it's the contorting female body beneath that really draws attention. These are powerful, dynamic bodies, and they are bursting with personality. Compared to the lifeless clotheshorse models of the contemporary fashion world, these are women who are vibrant, engaging and entertaining.

The photographs in this exhibition detail decades of changing fashions and tastes, from sleek androgyny to wild warrior women, but Avedon's technique remains confidently consistent. Although snapped years apart, the works all sit coherently together, save for one exception. Malagosia Bela and Gisele Bundchen, dress by Dior Couture, New York City (2000) is the only photograph to include the film border and it is devoid of any visible grain. It is still a beautiful image, but from another train of thought.

The quality of the prints (younger than the original negatives, having been mainly printed in the 1980s) is superb. The rich grayscale palette is beautifully complemented by the silver gilt frames, which add a touch of glamour whilst reminding us that this is a commercial gallery. The subtle lighting technique outlining the figures gives a curious effect, almost like the surrealists' solarisation process. There are other hints of surrealism too, in the fairytale-long hair of Veruschka, Dress by Kimberly, New York Studio (1967) and the woman jumping without a visible floor in Penelope Tree, suit by Ungaro, Paris Studio (1968). These experiments show Avedon's sense of humour and fanciful approach to an industry prone to taking itself far too seriously.

Anyone with even a passing interest in photography will know of Richard Avedon, and this show does a great job at bringing to light some of his lesser-seen images. There are some more familiar shots too, featuring very familiar faces from the modelling dynasty. In Twiggy, hair by Ara Gallant, Paris (1968) an iconic figure is transformed into an extravagant elemental goddess, breaking free from the binds of just being another pretty face.

There's no better way to spend a spare 30 minutes this autumn than visiting this refreshing take on a well-known and well-respected photographer. The show is small but persuasive, and you'll leave wishing you had the funds to take home your own piece of timeless glamour.    

Richard Avedon: Women, at Gagosian Gallery: Davies StreetStacey Harbour's review of Richard Avedon: Women at Gagosian Gallery.3