To say this week is an exciting one for the fashion industry would be an understatement. There is much to celebrate, and high on that list is the release of the book Annie Leibovitz: Wonderland (Phaidon) which was the reason that a notable group gathered at Hauser & Wirth’s pop-up show at Studio 525 in Chelsea yesterday afternoon.
Though you’d think it wasn’t so, this is the photographer’s first-ever collection of fashion images; she wanted to save them all for something special, as she states in the book.
“This is Annie’s first book that celebrates fashion and fashion imagery. And it’s a relationship that we at Vogue and at Vanity Fair have been so incredibly in awe to witness and to see develop,” said Anna Wintour to the crowd at the book launch. “No matter the shoot, Annie has the most miraculous way of creating an image that so perfectly balances subject and style.”
Remarks came from Wintour midway through the event, where, pinned on the gallery’s walls with thumbtacks was each page of the glossy new tome. As anyone who has worked in print publishing knows, that straightforward presentation was a nod to the planning of Vogue and Vanity Fair (the two titles which commissioned all of the stunning photos in the new book). At our magazine’s offices, you will also find walls and boards pinned with imagery in neat rows.
Thumbtacked to the walls at Studio 525 was every page of Wonderland in order and on display were all the themes that helped to make up the Leibovitz oeuvre. Her storybook reimaginings were represented by Keira Knightley as Dorothy and Natalia Vodianova as Alice, and there were also her political portraits; Michele Obama in black tie, Hillary Clinton poring over her desk, Donald Trump next to a bikini-clad Melania boarding a private jet. (When she photographs the Trumps, as she notes in the book, they were figures from entertainment, not politics.) There were also striking subjects like the Venus sisters, and full-on high-fashion fantasies played out by Hollywood’s brightest in the fashion world’s best. To walk through the space was to follow popular culture’s ebb and flow over the recent decades, each personality seemingly captured in their element as only someone like Leibovitz can do.
The tacks on the wall weren’t the only nod to the publication process. As Leibovitz explained yesterday afternoon, “The idea was to run the stories completely so you could see what we did.” In Wonderland, editorials unfold in their entirety.
In the room, whisky cocktails by The Macallan were stationed at a bar encircled by large screens projecting more of the book’s enthralling images. Among those in attendance were Fran Lebowitz, Gloria Steinheim, A$AP Ferg, and, of course, the Vogue editors who lend a large part of the magic to Leibovitz’s images: Grace Coddington and Phyllis Posnick.
In the spirit of collaboration, Leibovitz spoke to the group (just after Vanity Fair’s Radhika Jones and Phaidon CEO Keith Fox delivered heartwarming words of appreciation for the photographer) about the gratitude she felt toward Wintour.
“The person who has been the engine for keeping the work going for almost 30 years is Anna Wintour,” Leibovitz said. “She has reassured me, guided me, and sent me off to meet subjects who I admired and really wanted to work with and subjects who I never heard of and who turned out to be amazing people. She is benevolent, tireless, sometimes inscrutable, and almost always, in the end, right—or close enough. She is the wizard of Wonderland.”
Vogue and Vanity Fair would like to extend a special thanks to Hauser & Wirth, Phaidon, Hyundai, TriNet, and The Macallan for supporting our event.