Annie Leibovitz, spoiled darling of Vanity Fair, legendary blower of budgets both personal and professional, is not usually your go-to girl for a four-star show. Her really interesting work, much of it for Rolling Stone, was decades ago; the kind of immaculate celebrity gloss she purveys for VF has everything to do with myth-management (theirs, not hers) and little to do with art.
Yet it seems that debt (she was threatened with the loss of the rights to all her work by a loan company's lawsuit) and public humiliation (how can anyone with a gigantic salary and legendary expenses have ended up in a loan company's claws in the first place?) have been good for Leibovitz. She is not quite the pilgrim this title suggests – photographing Niagara Falls is hardly a humble act – but if a pilgrimage can be defined as a protracted journey into the realms of the dead, this exhibition is well-named. Here, in loving detail, are the hat and gloves Lincoln wore the night he was assassinated – the latter as wrinkled as his famous face, and ominously stained. Here is Sigmund Freud's rug-draped couch, that misappropriated floor-covering a fine visual definition of the Freudian uncanny.
And here is the great photographer Ansel Adams's darkroom, crisply delineated, thanks to digital technology, with just the benefit of a red bulb: an unconventional monument to bygone greatness but also an un-Adams-ish celebration of progress. Unlike Leibovitz's celebrity work, most of these images (a selection from her book of the same name) are small-format, modest, beautiful and thought-provoking. Sometimes, it seems, pilgrimages really do engender miracles.