There’s Adele at the piano, eyes closed, deep in thought. And Caitlyn Jenner off the telly, in an outtake from her Vanity Fair shoot. And Taylor Swift, in black, by a bush. And businesswoman Wendy Deng taking a (probably rare) moment off. And Aung San Suu Kyi, beautifully dignified as ever. And ballet dancer Misty Copeland (pictured) en point. And… Has anyone ever turned Annie Leibovitz down? At the press launch, the starriest of photographers to the stars claimed still to have Angela Merkel in her sights. Here’s betting the chancellor will appear as this show of portraits of influential women, commissioned by UBS for its art collection, tours the world over the next 12 months, growing as it goes.
What you get here feels, weirdly, epic and a tad slight. There are three big screens, two showing rolling Leibovitz images, including shots from her original ‘Women’ series from 1999, one displaying a static image of the Queen. The real interest lies in a wall where near-identically sized photos (including Adele, Misty and Caitlyn) are pinned – a democracy of scale contrasting with wild fluctuations of achievement.
Leibovitz is an exemplary image maker. But, above functioning as a kind of roll call of big names, I’m not sure how much these photographs reveal about their subjects. Intimacy, casualness, posturing – all seem equally stage-managed, deceptive, part of a celeb’s look-book of styles. Leibovitz pioneered them but they seem to serve her sitters rather better than a curious audience.