Annie Leibovitz: Women

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Annie Leibovitz: Women
© Annie Leibovitz

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. 

By: Martin Coomer

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This is the most over-hyped, superficial, badly presented, poorly designed exhibition in London right now. There are not many images and they are badly printed and simply drawing-pinned to a make-shift wall. They are all squeezed together so that, although the Wapping Hydraulic Station is a vast, beautiful space, only a very few people can see the pictures at a time, which has resulted in huge queues to get in to the exhibition. I waited in line one hour ten minutes on Saturday, and then only lasted 25 minutes in the exhibition. It just is not worth it. Better to look at some of the pictures on line. Or look at the work of a different photographer -- eg Alec Soth currently at the Science Museum. He's in a different league as a photographer!

Tastemaker

I tried to see the Annie Leibovitz exhibition last Saturday but when I arrived at 2:30, the wait in the line up would have been an hour and a half long. I went back Sunday morning, as soon as the exhibition opened at 10:00 and got in straight away.
The exhibition was much smaller than I would have anticipated - there was one wall of photos, one screen with a portrait of the Queen and two other screens that had a slide show of photos. It was all quite cramped, even when it had just opened and wasn’t at capacity yet. Saying that, there were hundreds of beautiful photos to see on the slide shows and I’m glad I was able to see them all. Also, off to the side was a room with many different Annie Leibovitz books - it was nice to sit in here at the end and flip through some other photos.
Overall, a nice exhibit (and great that it's free admission!) but I would not say it’s worth much of a wait to get into.


I totally agree with Jennifer W.

Don't waste your time visiting this exhibition.



I visited the exhibit the first weekend it was open and was surprised to find no line when we arrived around 1:30pm on Sunday. In fact, the only line I saw was the people waiting outside for the free coffee & tea (bonus!).

The main exhibit is in a large, bare, industrial room, which is a stark contrast to Leibovitz’s whimsical, elegant, and often opulent photographs. There are static images on display, which are a select dozen of Lebovitz’s work, and two large screens run through hundreds of images of women photographed over the years. There is a smaller, more intimate room next to the main exhibit with a table of books where you can read more about the women in the photographs and see the majority of Leibovitz's collection.

While you could easily spend hours sitting in the main exhibit hall watching the slideshow, if you are not one of the lucky ones to get a seat, you will probably get through the exhibit in under 30 minutes. So if are making a long commute in to Wapping for the exhibit, I would plan on building other activities in to you day, such as a visit to Tower Bridge and Borough Market.

Tastemaker

If you're looking for a real photo exhibition, you may be disappointed as there are only a handful of them. Most of the art works are being streamed on two huge screens. The selection includes some of the most recognisable faces in the world like Hillary Clinton or Angelina Jolie, but also less known ladies. Some in a staged poses, some caught in more natural situation, but all really fascinating and beautiful. You can also see a photos of Emily Dickinson's writing desk and herbariums. I especially loved the face painted portrait of Ellen DeGeneres. The exhibition is a good opportunity to visit the Wapping Hydraulic Station, which is a fascinating venue, sadly rarely open to the public these days. If you feel the show was not enough, you can take a sit in the especially prepared library in one of the industrial rooms and immerse yourself in the photography books not only by Leibovitz.