Still coming to life is a set of 30 new portraits, which was previewed exclusively with Vogue, commissioned by Crystal Bridges depicting the likes of Brittney Griner, Amy Sherald, Stacey Abrams, Stormy Daniels, Kim Kardashian, Keanu Reeves, Michelle Yeoh, Lil Nas X, and Alice Walton, who was photographed at her family’s Arkansas residence. “She was just a hoot and you couldn’t keep up with her,” Leibovitz recalled with a laugh. “She took us out to her lake house and drove us around in her boat. She loves to go into the 12-degree water to swim. I probably should have photographed her driving the boat, but I picked a picture of her where she’s more reflective in the family house for the show.” A forthcoming portrait of war photojournalist Lynsey Addario, which Leibovitz hopes to produce on the front lines in Ukraine, will later be added, as well as four additional subjects, the names of which are being kept under wraps. “It’s a funny animal because my shows have really been based on my books, and I do a book first and then the show grows out of that, but this is like working for a magazine,” Leibovitz explained of the commissioned project.
These new portraits are interspersed with earlier works and shown across three ceiling-height screens facing inward toward each other, where a dialog between them comes to light. There’s Salman Rushdie before and after his 2022 attack, which resulted in the loss of his right eye. Former Georgia State Representative Stacey Abrams is shown alongside Vice President Kamala Harris, who is shown alongside former female presidential candidates, including Hillary Clinton. “I thought about this a while ago, that I’ve done this for my career, for my life, and there’s not too many people doing this and I’m just going to go out doing this,” Leibovitz mused, gesturing widely to the unmistakable works surrounding us in the gallery. “It’s a little corny, but I feel responsible to that.”
On Thursday evening, during a celebration marking the show’s opening, Leibovitz could be found engulfed by admirers. Hailing from all corners of the world to the American heartland were Hank Willis Thomas with his parents in tow, Camilla Belle, Jeremy O. Harris, and gala co-chair Awol Erizku. A healthy contingent of Walton family members was on hand too. The museum is, after all, built on land that was once the family’s playground. “This is the extended backyard of where Alice and her big brother Jim grew up,” Olivia Walton, the board chair of Crystal Bridges, told guests as they took their seats for dinner. “This is where they went searching for crawdads for years and years growing up.”