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January 26, 2012

Annie Leibovitz’s New Smithsonian Exhibition

By Rachel Wolff | Art

© Annie Leibovitz. From Pilgrimage (Random House, 2011)

Annie Leibovitz is best known for her high-gloss celebrity portraits (let’s face it: Having one’s picture snapped by the famed shutterbug is as clear a sign that you’ve “made it” as a plaque on Hollywood’s Walk of Fame). But lately, Leibovitz has focused intently on some of her extracurricular activities, eschewing glammy commissions on occasion for a personal quest to photograph some of the most unusual destinations in the world. The results of her oddball expeditions are collected in Pilgrimage, a new book from Random House, and an exhibition of more than 70 large-format prints, on view at the Smithsonian American Art Museum through May 20. Taken between 2009 and 2011, the images are conceptual portraits, in a sense, illuminating the lives of influential artists and thinkers through the places and possessions they left behind. Leibovitz’s subjects include the gloves and top hat worn by Abraham Lincoln on the evening of his assassination (photographed in the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum in Springfield, Illinois); Georgia O’Keeffe’s Santa Fe home and studio; Sigmund Freud’s couch; Elvis Presley’s TV; Virginia Woolf’s writing desk; Thomas Jefferson’s Virginia vegetable garden; Annie Oakley’s riding boots; Louis and Clark’s compass; and Emily Dickinson’s only surviving dress. Smithsonian American Art Museum, Eighth and F streets NW, Washington, D.C.; 202-633-1000; americanart.si.edu.