West Chelsea saw a true fashion pilgrimage last night when fashionistas like Tory Burch, Marina Muñoz and Jamie Johnson flocked down twenty second street making their way through a shoot for the TV show Damages that made traffic through the street impossible. But nothing could stop them as they had a mission: to attend Annie Leibovitz’s “Pilgrimage” exhibition opening at The Pace Gallery – hosted by none other than Anna Wintour, the fierce editor in chief of Vogue.
The expectations surrounding this event were huge. This was Mrs. Leibovitz’s first purely digital project and the subject of her portraits this time were not the famous faces we are used to seeing in the pages of Vanity Fair or Vogue, but places and objects that are special to the photographer and also represent a special place in the world’s history.
Among pictures of Emily Dickinson’s last remaining dress, Elvis Presley’s television, Sigmund Freud’s couch and Abraham Lincoln’s hat, photographer Claiborne Swanson Frank told stories about her first book project set to come out next year while It girl Lily Kwong giggled about having to find a party dress on a budget for a story she was working on for Vogue.com –- “Give me 200 bucks and I’ll make it work!” Coco Rocha made a quick appearance with her husband James Conran on their way to a friend’s dinner. The couple is also getting ready for their own event next week, the fundraiser for the non-profit organization Lakay Pam that helps to improve the quality of life for children in Haiti. Coco will be hosting her third fundraiser for this organization, but this time they will also be premiering the documentary Letters to Haiti as well as showing an exhibition of pictures shot by her friend, Victoria’s Secret Angel Behati Prinsloo, during a visit they made to the country last year.
In an evening where art seemed to be the guest among a fashion crowd, Chuck Close’s presence was a great reminder of the goal of the evening: to celebrate art and history. Mr. Close seemed to be impressed by Mrs. Leibovitz’s work: “It’s interesting to see an artist like her stepping out of her comfort zone to shoot inanimate objects like these. The result is beautiful. I have never been a person who takes pictures, in fact I don’t think I have ever taken a picture during a vacation or anything like that. I like to keep those moments in my head, so it’s interesting to see these pictures displayed like this.”
The evening went smoothly in the warm environment of the gallery, among glasses of white wine and canapés, Karen Elson, Narciso Rodriguez and Prabal Gurung mingled in perfect harmony with Catherine Newell-Hanson, Eugenia Gonzalez and Michelle Harper. Mrs. Leibovitz signed books to her friends and when the clock ticked 8pm there was barely anyone left — as it would be expected from the kind of in-crowd that filled the guest list.
Photographs from Pilgrimage will be exhibited in New York at The Pace Gallery on December 1, 2 and 3 and next year at the Smithsonian American Art Museum in Washington D.C., from January 20 to May 20, 2012. The book Pilgrimage has been published by Random House and is available now.