Published: August 19, 2008
Opening on October 26 at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA), ” Vanity Fair Portraits: Photographs 1913′008″ brings together 150 of the magazine’s iconic portraits, exploring celebrity and photography from the past century. This is the first major exhibition to bring together the magazine’s historic archive of rare vintage prints with contemporary photographs as well.
On view through March 1, the exhibition explores the ways in which photography and celebrity have interacted and changed, with portraits from the magazine’s early period (1913‱936) displayed in conjunction with works from the contemporary Vanity Fair (1983⁰resent). The exhibition includes vintage prints and contemporary photographs taken by such celebrated photographers as Edward Steichen, Cecil Beaton, Mario Testino and Annie Leibovitz.
The Los Angeles presentation will be the only US stop on the exhibition’s international tour. “The exhibition is a timely consideration of portraiture in the last century in relation to magazines and photography,” said Michael Govan, LACMA CEO and Wallis Annenberg director. “We’re happy to bring the show to Los Angeles from the National Portrait Gallery in London. So many of the early Twentieth Century portraits originate in London and New York, and so many of the more recent portraits relate to Los Angeles †interesting evidence of our changing world.”
In 1913, Vanity Fair was launched with the birth of modernism, the dawning of the Jazz Age, and the groundbreaking Armory Show that introduced avant-garde art to the American public. Publisher Condé Nast (1873‱942) partnered with editor Frank Crowninshield (1872‱947) to create a magazine that would engage with this vibrant modern culture †a magazine that would not only comment upon, but also champion, all that was at the forefront of change and innovation in the arts.
The publication thus became a cultural catalyst, defining and celebrating key figures from contemporary artists and literary talents to theater luminaries and silent-screen stars. To rightfully capture these icons, Crowninshield commissioned the world’s leading photographers, including Steichen, Beaton, Baron De Meyer, Man Ray and George Hurrell.
Among the exceptional people portrayed in the exhibit are Pablo Picasso, Albert Einstein, Jesse Owens, James Joyce, Katharine Hepburn, and Fred and Adele Astaire. The introduction of modernism into photography was particularly evident in the progressive work of Steichen (1879‱973), who held the title of Vanity Fair ‘s chief photographer for 13 years. Steichen was America’s leading photographer of style, taste and celebrity, and many of his iconic photographs are in ” Vanity Fair Portraits,” including those of Gloria Swanson, Louise Brooks, Anna May Wong and Paul Robeson. The exhibition also showcases definitive portraits of the Jazz Age, including now-classic studies of Louis Armstrong, Josephine Baker and Noel Coward.
Although Vanity Fair suspended publication in 1936, it was relaunched in 1983. The revived magazine commissioned such leading photographers as Leibovitz, Testino, Helmut Newton, Nan Goldin, Herb Ritts, Harry Benson and Bruce Weber.
Since the magazine’s relaunch, the name of one photographer in particular has become synonymous with Vanity Fair and contemporary celebrity †Annie Leibovitz. Selected from the several hundred shoots directed by Leibovitz, portraits of Arnold Schwarzenegger, Lance Armstrong, Kate Winslet and George Clooney, as well as Leibovitz’s signature group portraits of the great talents of Hollywood, will be on view.
Featuring a remarkable selection of 150 portraits, ” Vanity Fair Portraits,” conceived by Graydon Carter, was curated by David Friend, editor of creative development of Vanity Fair , and Terence Pepper, curator of photographs at the National Portrait Gallery, London.
The exhibition will complete its tour at the National Portrait Gallery, Canberra, Australia, June 12⁁ugust 30, 2009.
LACMA is at 5905 Wilshire Boulevard. For information www.lacma.org or 323-857-6000.
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