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Annie Leibovitz: A Photographer’s Life 1990-2005

Museum of Contemporary Art Australia (MCA)


19 Nov 2010 to 27 Mar 2011

Curator: Charlotta Kotik (Brooklyn Museum, New York)

about the exhibition

Annie Leibovitz (born 1949) is one of the most celebrated portrait photographers of our time. Since 1970, her extraordinary images have captured the varied spectrum of American life and popular culture with remarkable candour and vigour.

Almost all of the 192 photographs in this exhibition were taken in the years since 1990. During this time Leibovitz produced some of her most recognisable images including portraits of a pregnant Demi Moore, American President Bill Clinton, Australian actress Nicole Kidman, writer William S. Burroughs and Queen Elizabeth II. The artist also photographed the siege of Sarajevo, documented the inception of the White Oak Dance Project with Mikhail Baryshnikov, expanded her repertory to include landscape photography and created countless other memorable images that have appeared in publications including Rolling Stone, Vanity Fair and Vogue, in prominent advertising campaigns, books and museums. On a personal level, she experienced the deaths of her father and of her long-time friend, the writer Susan Sontag and the births of her three daughters.

A Photographer’s Life l990–2005 offered an exceptional view of Leibovitz’s practice. Work made on assignment as a professional photographer was interwoven with personal pictures. A series of images documents Sontag’s hospitalisation and recovery from cancer and then a subsequent recurrence of the disease, ending in searing photographs of her final days and her death. Equally direct were photographs of the artist’s aging and ill father, who died shortly after Sontag. The emotionally fraught depictions of illness and death were presented alongside joyous pictures of family gatherings and tender and beautiful pictures of Leibovitz’s daughter Sarah and her twins, Susan and Samuelle.

The exhibition and its accompanying book, published by Random House, bore witness to something the artist realised as she was preparing the material. ‘I don’t have two lives’, she said. ‘This is one life, and the personal pictures and the assignment work are all part of it’.

The exhibition attracted over 180,000 people, many first-time visitors to the MCA, and broke previous attendance records for a ticketed exhibition. The previous record was held by Olafur Eliasson’s solo exhibition in 2009/2010. Anne Leibovitz was due to close at the end of March 2011, but was extended until 26 April due to popular demand.

Annie Leibovitz: A Photographer’s Life 1990-2005 was curated by Charlotta Kotik, John and Barbara Vogelstein of the Brooklyn Museum where it was first presented from 20 October 2006 to 21 January 2007. The subsequent tour, organised by the Brooklyn Museum, saw the exhibition travel to 11 international venues.

Annie Leibovitz: A Photographer’s Life, 1990–2005, was the first of the International Art Series, supported by Events NSW in association with The First Emperor: China’s entombed warriors at the Art Gallery of New South Wales.

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