Last month, the San Francisco Museum of Art’s Art Council took over the Regency Ballroom for a new event: to honor someone significant in the San Francisco arts community with a Contemporary Vision Award, complete with a snazzy dinner and 500 fans in attendance. This year, the award went to the one-and-only Annie Leibovitz, influential photographer and fixture of San Francisco, where art has always had a home.
SFMOMA has long been the hub for art and artists old and new. The museum, which will reopen in May of 2016 with a new expansion, has held plenty of invigorating and beautiful exhibits in the past, including works by Mexican painter Frida Kahlo, works by Diane Arbus, and a featured collection of Southwest Native American art donated by Thomas Weisel.
Initially called the Bay Area Treasure Lunch, the awards dinner has honored other creative brains like painter Wayne Thiebaud, designer Jony Ive, and sculptor Richard Serra, known for his sleek and minimalist works.
Honorees are “either from or influenced the Bay Area,” said SFMOMA trustee Alka Agrawal. Of the ceremony’s name change, Agrawal adds that it “reflects that SFMOMA is now a world-class cultural institution.”
Guests at the event were treated to other tributes from Neal Benezra, Director of SFMOMA, and San Francisco Chronicle Art Critic Charles Desmarais. They also enjoyed meals prepared by Paula LeDuc catering and a slideshow from Leibovitz herself.
Leibovitz began her career at 17 as a photographer for Rolling Stone, and has photographed some of the most famous and innovative musicians and notable people around the world, from John Lennon to Miley Cyrus to Walt Disney. Her work has inspired many other photographers around the world, and her photography documented the look and feel of a generation.
A former colleague of Leibovitz’s, editor Ben Fong-Torres, remembers the days they worked together fondly. “Occasionally we’d go on assignment together; I’d take notes as Annie set up the shot,” he said. “To put the subject at ease, she’d casually ask a few questions. And in that process, Annie developed her distinctive visuals.”