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DIA exterior at night
DIA exterior at night

American Idols by Annie Leibovitz

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

American Music focus of show by celebrity photographer

June 6, 2006 (Detroit)—Aretha Franklin, The White Stripes, Willie Nelson, Etta James ... and the beat goes on. These are just some of the greats of American music whose images were captured by the keen eye of one of America’s most renowned photographers: Annie Leibovitz. The Detroit Institute of Arts (DIA) presents Annie Leibovitz: American Music from Sept. 24, 2006 to Jan. 7, 2007, an exhibition featuring intimate portraits of those who shaped and were influenced by American roots music.

Emerging from the early decades of the 20th century, “roots music,” which includes folk, blues, country, gospel and bluegrass, is the foundation for many forms of popular music developed later in the United States. American Music includes portraits of individuals from the early history of this rich tradition, as well as younger rap, rock, and contemporary country artists who have been influenced by these legends.

The exhibition showcases 70 color and black-and-white portraits of Leibovitz’s recent work in addition to several classic images from the late 1970s and 1980s. Detroit music celebrities include rapper Eminem, the “queen of soul,” Aretha Franklin, and rock icons Iggy Pop, Patti Smith, and The White Stripes.

 “Annie Leibovitz takes us far beyond the typical celebrity portrait,” said Graham W. J. Beal, DIA director “and depicts individual performers in surroundings that strikingly reinforce character and personality.”   

Leibovitz has created casual, formal, and whimsical portrayals of music personalities in settings as diverse as juke joints and bars, recording studios, hotel rooms, rehearsal spaces, city streets and the expansive American landscape. Country singer Emmylou Harris appears against an ethereal twilight sky. Johnny Cash strums guitar with daughter Roseanne on their family porch in Virginia. Grammy award-winning rapper artist Missy Elliot appears larger-than-life in diamonds and fur.

Leibovitz captures many of the artists in rehearsals and performances or in more personal settings as seen in a candid view of Delta bluesman Johnnie Billington in the midst of a music lesson with students at his Mississippi school. She also presents stark depictions of longtime musical performers, such as the black-and-white portraits of Willie Nelson and rocker Iggy Pop. To Leibovitz, their faces appear like “road maps” of their lives. And the photographer personally recalls her encounters, perceptions and the history of these legendary figures in the captivating audio tour that accompanies the exhibition.

An early interest in music and its personalities emerged when Leibovitz began photographing for Rolling Stone magazine in 1970. She was the chief photographer from 1973 to 1983, then joined the staff of Vanity Fair. She is currently a contributor to The New Yorker, Vanity Fair and Vogue.

The exhibition coincided with the 2003 publication of Leibovitz’s book American Music, which is available in the museum shop for $44.95 in soft cover.

Tickets are $10 for adults, $5 for youth ages 6-17, and $8 per person for groups of 20 or more and include an audio tour and museum admission. For more information visit

Annie Leibovitz: American Music is organized by Experience Music Project, Seattle and all works are courtesy of Annie Leibovitz. In Detroit, the exhibition has been made possible by a generous grant from LaSalle Bank. Additional support provided by the Michigan Council for Arts and Cultural Affairs and the City of Detroit.


Museum hours are 10 a.m.–4 p.m. Wednesdays and Thursdays, 10 a.m.–9 p.m. Fridays, and 10 a.m.–-5 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays.

Admission is a donation. We recommend $4 for adults and $1 for children. DIA members are admitted free. For membership information call 313-833-7971.

The Detroit Institute of Arts (DIA), one of the premier art museums in the United States, is home to more than 60,000 works that comprise a multicultural survey of human creativity from ancient times through the 21st century. From the first van Gogh painting to enter a U.S. museum (Self Portrait, 1887), to Diego Rivera's world-renowned Detroit Industry murals (1932–33), the DIA's collection is known for its quality, range and depth.

The DIA is currently undergoing a major renovation, scheduled for completion in late 2007. The museum remains open with a dynamic schedule of programs and activities for all ages. Visitors can enjoy some of the DIA’s “greatest hits” while the museum prepares for an entirely new installation when renovations are completed.