Annie Leibovitz: Pilgrimage

January 20, 2012 — May 19, 2012

Smithsonian American Art Museum (8th and F Streets, NW)

Annie Leibovitz: Pilgrimage charts a new direction for one of America's best-known living photographers. Unlike her staged and carefully lit portraits made on assignment for magazines and advertising clients, the photographs in this exhibition were taken simply because Leibovitz was moved by the subject. The images speak in a commonplace language to the photographer’s curiosity about the world she inherited, spanning landscapes both dramatic and quiet, interiors of living rooms and bedrooms, and objects that are talismans of past lives.

The exhibition includes 64 photographs taken between April 2009 and May 2011. The Smithsonian American Art Museum acquired the works on display in the exhibition for its permanent collection.

The pictures, although there are no people in them, are in a certain sense portraits of subjects that have shaped Leibovitz's distinctly American view of her cultural inheritance. Visiting the homes of iconic figures including Thomas Jefferson, Emily Dickinson, Georgia O'Keeffe, Pete Seeger, and Elvis Presley, as well as places such as Niagara Falls, Walden Pond, Old Faithful, and the Yosemite Valley, she let her instincts and intuitions guide her to related subjects—hence the title ""Pilgrimage."" Some of the pictures focus on the remaining traces of photographers and artists she admires, such as Julia Margaret Cameron, Ansel Adams, and Robert Smithson.

Pilgrimage is an evocative and deeply personal statement by a photographer whose career now spans more than forty years, encompassing a broad range of subject matter, history, and stylistic influences. Together the pictures show Leibovitz at the height of her powers, unfettered by the demands of her career and pondering how photographs, including her own, shape a narrative of history that informs the present.

Annie Leibovitz: Pilgrimage is organized for the Smithsonian American Art Museum by guest curator Andy Grundberg, former New York Times photography critic and associate provost and dean of undergraduate studies at the Corcoran College of Art + Design. Joann Moser, senior curator, is the coordinating curator at the museum.

The exhibition is presented in conjunction with a new book by Annie Leibovitz, Pilgrimage, published by Random House. It is available for purchase ($50) in the museum store and at bookstores nationwide.

Free Public Programs
January 24, 2012, Artist Talk, Annie Leibovitz
May 19, 2012, Striking a Pose Family Day

In the News
New Yorker, March 20, 2012, "Annie Leibovitz’s Ghosts" by Sarah Boxer
Express, February 9, 2012, "Beyond the Portrait" by Katie Aberbach
PBS NewsHour, February 7, 2012, "In ‘Pilgrimage,’ Leibovitz Explores Portraits Without People" with Jeffrey Brown
Voice of America, January 28, 2012, "Annie Leibovitz Takes New Path in ‘Pilgrimage’" by Deborah Block
The Atlantic, January 26, 2012 "An Annie Leibovitz Exhibit With Shots of Niagara Falls, Not Demi Moore" by Betsy Morais
Washington Blade, January 26, 2012, "Portal to the past" by Patrick Folliard
Associated Press, January 24, 2012 "Annie Leibovitz opens new art show at Smithsonian" by Brett Zongker, January 19, 2012, "New work by Annie Leibovitz at American Art Museum" by Stephanie Merry
DC Magazine, January 2012, "States of Grace" by Karen Sommer Shalett
Smithsonian, January 2012, "Annie Leibovitz’s American Pilgrimage" by Terence Monmaney
Washingtonian, January 2012, "Annie Leibovitz Discusses ‘Pilgrimage’" by Sophie Gilbert
NPR’s Talk of the Nation, November 8, 2011, "Leibovitz Takes A ‘Pilgrimage’ For Artistic Renewal"
The New York Times, October 30, 2011, "A Pilgrim’s Progress" by Dominique Browning

National Tour

Following its presentation in Washington, D.C., Annie Leibovitz: Pilgrimage is touring the United States. Confirmed venues include:

Concord Museum in Concord, Massachusetts (June 28, 2012–September 23, 2012)
Wexner Center for the Arts in Columbus, Ohio (September 22, 2012–December 30, 2012)
Gettysburg National Military Park Museum and Visitor Center in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania (October 25, 2012–January 21, 2013)
Georgia O’Keeffe Museum in Santa Fe, New Mexico (February 15, 2013–May 5, 2013)
San Jose Museum of Art in San Jose, California (June 6, 2013–September 8, 2013)
Columbia Museum of Art in Columbia, South Carolina (October 4, 2013–January 5, 2014)
Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum in Springfield, Illinois (February 8, 2014–August 31, 2014)
New-York Historical Society in New York City (November 21, 2014–February 22, 2015)


Annie Leibovitz: Pilgrimage is organized by the Smithsonian American Art Museum. The Bernie Stadiem Endowment Fund provided support for the exhibition. The C.F. Foundation in Atlanta supports the museum's traveling exhibition program, Treasures to Go.

Annie Leibovitz, Niagara Falls, Ontario, Canada

Annie Leibovitz, Niagara Falls, Ontario, Canada, 2009, © Annie Leibovitz. From Pilgrimage (Random House, 2011)