Annie Leibovitz Presents Pilgrimage

Annie Leibovitz’s newest batch of photos, aptly named Pilgrimage, chronicles her “exercise in renewal,” which begins at Emily Dickinson’s home in Amherst, Massachusetts. A trip to Niagara Falls with her children expands into a quest to enter the worlds of people who interest her, from Ralph Waldo Emerson to Sigmund Freud to Annie Oakley. The finished product interweaves portraits, landscapes, and close-ups of objects in a collage of Leibovitz’s fascinations and concerns. She will speak about the book this Wednesday at BookCourt in Brooklyn.

Wed., Dec. 14, 7 p.m., 2011



Last year, the New York Photo Festival debuted with a mission to document the future of photography in all its forms. This year, its group of international curators returns to showcase and award the work of outstanding photographers, and the competition is bound to be even stiffer. Special exhibitions include “Gay Men Play,” contemporary photos on gay sex and identity, and “I Am Not Sure I Know What Kind of Girl I Am,” a gallery of portraits depicting women in their myriad roles. Also check out staged presentations, master-class workshops, and the peer lounge, where advice and critiques from established professionals are readily available. Even if you’re not a pro behind the lens, you’re bound to find something to inspire your inner Annie Leibovitz. St. Ann’s Warehouse, 38 Water Street, Brooklyn, and powerHouse Arena, 37 Main Street, Brooklyn

May 14-17, 2009



The Starbucksian chanteuse Leslie Feist—avatar of what one critic dubbed the “Age of Accessible Hotness”—caught an iPod-commercial-fueled backlash last year that did nothing to derail her omnipresence. Since the release of last year’s The Reminder, she’s been photographed by Annie Leibovitz, collected both Juno and Shortlist music prizes, and gone gold (not to mention placing 11th in this publication’s most recent Pazz & Jop critics’ poll). Tonight, a mere $31 will buy Feist fans a spot in the one room in the nation where her detractors won’t follow. Expect adoration. With Hayden.

Wed., April 30, 7 p.m., 2008


Green Afternoon

Location Chelsea
Price $529,000 in January 2006 [$718.92 maintenance]
Square feet 500 [junior one-bedroom co-op apartment in pre-war building]
Occupant Nicholas Leighton [executive director, not-for-profit cancer research organization; owner, Emerald Energy products]

Emerald Energy! I’m just about to make some. It’s probably been the busiest week of my life. The cancer research organization was on the Today show. I had 482 voice mails today. Last night, I had 1,000.

Why is Emerald Energy orange? I mix it in vegetable juice. Here, this will do it for you.

[Swallow] More protein than beef. It tastes like nothing. Technically this is a studio, but in the ’80s, this wall was built, making a bedroom. This apartment is in one of the four corner buildings, the London Terrace Towers co-ops. In between are the Gardens, the rentals. They can use the pool for a fee.

I read that a tenant was thrown out because he had sex in the pool. I think there were other reasons he was removed. I’ve only been here for three days.

That’s why we’re sitting on the bare floor in an empty room. Though by the time the photographer gets here, you’ll have your furniture. The building went co-op in 1987. I’ve only been here for three days. It was funded right before the stock market crash in 1929. The owner jumped off the building and killed himself.

This wide pile is like a person who has spread. They’re sighing. What were you expecting?

I have been here before. I was just reflecting. Only a few buildings are the size of a full city block in New York.

They call it a white-glove building. It was for people who wanted all these amenities, fancy middle class. London Terrace has this whole reputation that it’s like a fortress. It’s not like some Upper East Side co-op. There are many with an artful, political sensibility—Annie Leibovitz, Stephin Merritt, City Council Speaker Christine Quinn. Ethnically, economically, it’s pretty diverse.

People in their seventies and eighties were in your lobby. It may have just been a moment in time. Nice—institutional memory.

Susan Sontag was the queen on top of the mountain. Below were all her subjects. And now . . . I was lucky. I bought from original owners so no board approval or having to put down 20 percent. It’s very standard for co-ops to require 20, 30, even 50 percent. Condos allow more flexible financing but they’re more expensive per square foot. A major percent of Manhattan apartments are co-ops. So because there’re less condos and they’re easier to buy, they’re just more expensive—supply and demand. Because condos are real property, there’s mortgage tax which for me could have been upwards of $10,000. Did you see the view of the Statue of Liberty? I had no light before. I was at 10th near University, the Albert.

You’re a pre-war person. I’d want to put in crown molding here some day. I grew up on the West Coast. I painted the walls pebble gray. It’s almost like shadow. Some people, they envision their wedding. I envision mid-century modern. I have a Florence Knoll sofa. It’s really uncomfortable but it’s OK. It’s seven feet long. I have a baby grand.

What do you sing on your piano? I play Chopin, Debussy.

Oh. I have little paper in the house. I scanned the contents of 25 file drawers on a flatbed. It took seven days. The crystal candy dishes are Oswald Haerdtl. I inherited them from my grandfather. The second wife had very expensive taste. The other night I had friends over for a vodka tasting. I’ve had tonic water tastings, vanilla ice cream.

You’re so social. In the future, I’d like to do butter.


Inky Depths

Lions and tigers and . . . Jasper Johns? Oh my! That may have been your first reaction too, when you saw the glammy 20-page Annie Leibovitz “Wizard of Oz” spread in last month’s Vogue, in which famous artists play all the major roles, except Dorothy, who is represented by the super-long-necked British starlet Keira Knightley, outfitted in Balenciaga and the like.

Knightley’s supporting cast includes, as Uncle Henry, Francesco Clemente, playing the goofy sad-eyed pseudo-saint he’s been impersonating for decades in these celebrity shoots. In the role of Glinda the Good Witch and wearing a sprawling white Dior number is the towering beanpole Kara Walker. It’s daunting to see this toughie with a magic wand, although there is a twitchy hint of wickedness about her.

Dorothy’s three traveling companions are a hobo-like Brice Marden as the Scarecrow, John Currin as the Tin Man, and Bert Lahr look-alike Jasper Johns as the Cowardly Lion (Julian Schnabel supposedly turned down the part at the last minute). Chuck Close plays an imperious Wizard in his wheelchair and the already witchy Kiki Smith is perfect as the melting Wicked Witch of the West. In the part of a flying monkey is that imp of the perverse, Jeff Koons, clutching an alarmed-looking Knightley. The pictures only lack a William Wegman Weimaraner as Toto.

In the late 1990s, pretty, young, white, heterosexual artists adorned the pages of glossy magazines and gossip columns. Back then, artists were making a mockery of themselves while laughing all the way to the bank. The Leibovitz shoot is disconcerting but not bogus in a high-’90s way. It mixes genders and generations while treating artists as if they’re movie stars. Of course, it still makes you wonder just how much attention the super-famous require. But whatever has happened, we’re not in Soho anymore.

Art magazines are also indulging in the celebritization of artists, but they’re bringing something stinky to the mix. Take ArtReview‘s annual “Power 100 List” and Art + Auction‘s “Power Issue,” both considered art world jokes since they first appeared in 2001 and 1996, respectively. Recently each came out with a list; both were based on money and as self-interested as ever. In addition to museum directors, mega- collectors, auction house bigwigs, art fair pashas, art advisers, and the below-average overhyped painter Marlene Dumas, both lists are stocked with the magazine’s advertisers and the artists they represent. It would be a hoot if it weren’t so craven.

Predictably, ArtReview places Damien Hirst, “who rocketed up from last year’s 78th place,” and his dealer, Larry Gagosian, “who has more artists in the ‘Power 100’ than any other dealer and who also has more square footage in more cities,” in the two top spots. “Hirst had a phenomenal year,” the magazine gushes, citing “his ‘Pharmacy’ sale at Sotheby’s which made over 22 million dollars in less than two hours.” Overlooking his lousy Gagosian show,
ArtReview raves that Hirst has “four studios, a full-time staff of 50, a 300-room Gothic castle, and plans for a gallery in London.” You have to love a publication that not only has the gall to include Frank Dunphy, who oversees the business affairs of rich artists like Rachel Whiteread, but places him ahead of her because “every morning he has a chat with Damien.”

Art + Auction‘s list is as self-absorbed but not as sexy because it doesn’t even have the brass to rank its names. Its biases are still blatant: Of 84 slots just nine are assigned to women. Eight “power couples” only make matters creepier. ArtReview‘s list has only 19 individual women, although it too includes weird art couples like Thomas Krens and Lisa Dennison.

If “Power Issue”s are money-punchy and fame-infatuated, then art world Top 10 lists are just irksome fun. Sometimes they’re telling. December’s Artforum “Best of 2005” issue included ten Top 10 lists by heavyweight curators and critics, and one by John Kelsey, artist-writer-co-director of Reena Spaulings, a gallery that turned up on another list.

These 11 choosers adore men—often the same men. Jeff Wall is named on three lists. Paul McCarthy, Martin Kippenberger and Jorg Immendorf each turn up twice. Damien Hirst, Marc Quinn, and Christo make the grade, as do Yohji Yamamoto and Bob Dylan. But dishearteningly and disturbingly, of 110 slots a paltry 11 go to women artists, with Isa Genzken named twice. Two choosers don’t list any women artists at all. Matthew Higgs names three women artists, and Ann Goldstein and Kelsey two, but five others only manage one each. No selector places a woman artist in his or her top slot.

Editors shouldn’t police writers, and it is just a silly “best of” issue. This isn’t only Artforum‘s problem, and I don’t exempt myself. When only 17 percent of gallery shows are one-woman solos, everything is skewed. It’s worse with artists of color. Regardless, it needs to be pointed out that right now, when it comes to women, the art world is more conservative than the Bush administration.

Air Lair

The other night I helped judge another kind of boys’ club, the air guitar contest that was the closing event of a month-long performance series organized by Artists Space. It wasn’t a total surprise that I loved it. I’ve listened to rock and roll my whole life and am told I do a pretty good air guitar myself.

Our eight contestants were 100 percent men, a statistic that is said to be changing abroad but is still typical here. This art form is an autoerotic combination of performance art, drag show, pantomime, posturing, parody, feather display, dance, and mating call. Champion air guitarists “Air Lingus,” “Bjorn Turoque” (pronounced “born to rock”), and “the Rockness Monster” informed us that the criteria for judging were technical ability, charisma, and “airness.” As Lingus put it, “What counts is not the there guitar, it’s the air guitar. We’re after transcendence.”

And that’s what I saw in “Osama Bin Rockin,” who played the air sitar as a Joseph Beuys figure wobbled in the background; “30-Pack of Rock,” our eventual winner in a T-shirt that said, “Lick my legs I’m on fire”; “Air Apparent,” who did a fabulous Prince; and “Sir Angus,” outfitted as a T-bone steak.

These hormonal warriors put on a nonstop show of horniness, impetuousness, obnoxiousness, contempt, hopefulness, and sheer joy. As Bjorn put it, “Air guitar is about bringing the bedroom onto the world stage.” He paused, then added, “and promoting world peace.”

Dylan Stone

Dylan Stone is one of the better under-known conceptualists around. Schooled in New York, this current London resident has previously sewn on newspapers and compiled a photographic archive of every building in Lower Manhattan. Lately, he’s made nicely dicey miniature sculptures of his sexual encounters (on view in the gallery office). Barbara & David Stone’s Bookshelf is a huge, indexical, magical, and magnificent example of abstract portraiture and self-portraiture. We see a wall-filling, multipaneled watercolor, based on a photograph of his parents’ library. The books suggest intellectuals or academics. It turns out, Stone’s parents produced some of the art world’s greatest experimental films. The overall effect is a mesmerizing tour de force of verisimilitude, love, and intimidation.



In Chelsea’s burgeoning gallery district, a building previously occupied by photographer Annie Leibowitz is morphing into a theater. Underwritten by Nancy Walton Laurie, daughter of Wal-Mart founder Sam Walton, an ensemble of 32 directed by L.J. Ballard performs Raw, a meandering two-hour pastiche with many writers, one choreographer, some really talented dancers, a pair of glamorous strolling violinists, and a misguided design concept.

Swivel stools for spectators clump together in the center of a huge empty space with a concrete floor. Around the edges, projected videos and a series of scenes are connected by processions of zombie-like whiteface dancers called the “tribe of vultures.” We strain to watch and hear a couple of distraught soldiers, a recital of the horrors of the Holocaust, a confrontation between a neo-Nazi punk and a pair of reporters, another between workers locked in a butcher’s freezer. There’s a distracted Othello, a betrayed girl with three alter egos, and most successfully, a woman climbing a brick wall to escape rapists. Choreographed by Benoit Swan-Pouffer, “dolls” arrayed on shelving come powerfully to life. Longtime Feld dancer Nickemil Concepcion is a mainstay of this troupe; one prays that its apparently limitless resources will attract more promising material.


Who’s More Annoying Than Osama bin Laden?

How irritating is Justin Timberlake? Very, according to the scads of people who voted in‘s poll for the most annoying personalities of 2004. Though anxious-to-bother-you nightmares like Britney Spears, Dr. Phil, and Osama bin Laden all landed in the top 10, none of them could hold a creepy candle to the big winner, Justin himself, who’s skinny in every way except attitude. Respondents apparently disliked Justin’s participation in Nipplegate, his subsequent distancing of himself from it, and his persnickety behavior around paparazzi with his (annoying) arm accessory Cameron Diaz. Sheesh, imagine if he’d released music last year!

Already, The New York Times is the most annoying publication of ’05 for the reason they gave to defend their omission of Susan Sontag’s relationship with Annie Leibovitz from their lengthy Sontag obit. As you may have read, Timesman Daniel Okrent said they couldn’t find any backup to support running with the lesbian stuff! Funny, I didn’t realize (Jayson Blair) that the Times (Jayson Blair) was such a perfection-seeking stickler for facts (Jayson Blair, Jayson Blair, Jayson Blair). Maybe NOW they’re trying to be more accurate, but it’s strange they should use a multi-decade, widely known relationship as an excuse to suddenly get particular!

Musto Web Extra will appear in NYC Life every Thursday



After all the anticipation (or am I the only one who starts a countdown in June?), the American fashion magazines’ hefty September issues are decidedly underwhelming. Nicole Kidman gives Vogue a neat jolt of star power in photos shot by Annie Leibovitz, Helmut Newton, and the always arresting Irving Penn. But even Madonna on the cover can’t save the terminally lackluster Harper’s Bazaar. These cover girls have serious competition from iconic ad campaigns, where Steven Meisel’s ethereal Christina Aguilera for Versace easily trumps Mert Alas and Marcus Piggott’s android J.Lo for Vuitton. Normally, I’d pass them all up for Kate Moss, who gets 40 pages and nine separate covers in the new W. But that project fizzles, too, and is barely saved by Mario Sorrenti, Lisa Yuskavage, and Chuck Close, whose daguerreotype portraits of Moss in the nude are as tender as they are unsparing.