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.
Following its presentation in Washington, D.C., Annie Leibovitz: Pilgrimage tours the United States. Venues include the Concord Museum in Concord, Massachusetts (June 28, 2012–September 23, 2012); The Wexner Center for the Arts in Columbus, Ohio (September 22, 2012–December 30, 2012); the Gettysburg National Military Park Museum and Visitor Center in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania (October 25, 2012–January 21, 2013); The Georgia O’Keeffe Museum in Santa Fe, New Mexico (February 15, 2013–May 5, 2013); The San Jose Museum of Art in San Jose, California (June 6, 2013–September 8, 2013); The Columbia Museum of Art in Columbia, South Carolina (October 4, 2013–January 5, 2014); The Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum in Springfield, Illinois (February 8, 2014–August 31, 2014); and the New-York Historical Society in New York City (November 21, 2014–February 22, 2015).
The exhibition is presented in conjunction with a new book by Annie Leibovitz, titled Pilgrimage, published by Random House.
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.