“This is not how we expected this week to turn out. But mark my words: This is still a celebration. A somber, sobering, emotional celebration. There is much to talk about.”
Annie Leibovitz’s opening remarks at a media preview of her new exhibition, “WOMEN: New Portraits” are motivating for anyone demoralized by last week’s election.
The free, pop-up exhibit of portraits of notable women, from Hillary Clinton to Malala Yousafzai to Katie Ledecky, makes the penultimate stop on its 10-city world tour in New York this Friday at Bayview Correctional Facility. It serves to usher in the building’s transition from a former women’s prison to The Women’s Building, a hub of activism and engagement for women, set to open in 2017.
Gloria Steinem, who collaborated on the project with Leibovitz, told the crowd, “Welcome to the People’s Republic of New York. I want to say a special thank you to Andrew Cuomo, because he has closed more prisons than any other governor in the coutnry. This is one of them.”
The show, which Leibovitz refers to as “a work in progress,” has already adapted to reflect the changing sentiment of our post-election world.
“There could be nothing more symbolic than this place right now,” said Steinem, standing before Leibovitz’s wall of portraits in Bayview’s gymnasium. “I did not know that when we started this journey around the world that it would be so crucial and important right now to have this symbol.”
A portrait of Hillary Clinton seated at her desk in a royal blue pantsuit, looking serene and determined, was only “folded into the sea of women,” for this incarnation of the show, said Leibovitz. “I told my retoucher, could you please sharpen that tile,” Leibovitz said, referring to a tile on Clinton’s desk that reads “Never, never, never give up.”
A projected slideshow which had displayed Queen Elizabeth II in prior shows on the world tour, said Leibovitz, noting her obsession with Netflix’s “The Crown,” now cycles through photos the artist captured during the Clinton campaign — serving as a kind of “election aftermath,” she explained.
Commissioned by the global financial services firm UBS, “WOMEN: New Portraits” is a continuation of Leibovitz’s 1999 series, “Women,” a collaboration with Susan Sontag which depicted female subjects both famous and anonymous. (Images from that series are also on display in a slideshow at the exhibit.) Leibovitz’s latest series focuses exclusively on women of accomplishment, meant to reflect the changing roles of women today and depict women as “the whole human being.”
Steinem helped compile the list of photographic subjects, suggesting the likes ofAndréa Medina Rosas, a human rights lawyer in Mexico City who advocates for female survivors of sexual assault and violence along the U.S.-Mexico border. Leibovitz captures her at dawn in the desert at Campo Algodonero, “the place where women’s bodies are dumped” in Ciudad Juarez.
“Gloria is helping me as Susan Sontag helped me,” Leibovitz said. “We’re trying to catch up with the imagery of women…what do we look like now?”
She plans to continue adding to the sea of faces; a notecard with “J.K. Rowling” sharpied on it was tacked up on the wall.
“It’s meant to look like it’s still building, because it is, and we still are,” she said.
The exhibit runs Nov. 18 through Dec. 11 and is free and open to the public. Free weekend photography workshops (pre-book online via exhibition site) will be offered throughout the show’s run.
Nov. 18 to Dec. 11
Mon.-Wed., Sat.-Sun., 10 a.m. to 7 p.m.
Thurs.-Fri., 10 a.m. to 8 p.m.
Former Bayview Correctional Facility (The future home of The Women’s Building)
550 W. 20th St.
For the rest of the best entertainment in New York City this season, visit ourWinter Arts Guide