Home » Art Life » Annie Leibovitz’s WOMEN Exhibition and the Wapping Hydraulic Power Station

Annie Leibovitz’s WOMEN Exhibition and the Wapping Hydraulic Power Station

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The Wapping Hydraulic Power Station may seem an odd location for an exhibition by one of America’s leading photographers, but last week saw the opening of Annie Leibovitz’s WOMEN: New Portraits exhibition.

Women: New Portraits includes photographs of the famous and not so famous including  Amy Winehouse, Michelle Obama, Adele, Taylor Swift, Jan Goodall, Sheryl Sandberg, Cindy Sherman, Caitlyn Jenner, Amy Schumer and Aung San Suu Kyi.

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‘WOMEN: New Portraits’ a global tour of new photographs by Annie Leibovitz launches in London. Commissioned by UBS, the exhibition opens to the public on 16 January at Wapping Hydraulic Power Station, kicking off a 10-city world-wide tour. Access to the exhibition will be free. Photo by Stephen White, courtesy of UBS.

The collection focuses on “women of outstanding achievement” and is a continuation of Women, a project that began over 15 years ago in collaboration with writer Susan Sontag.

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‘WOMEN: New Portraits’ a global tour of new photographs by Annie Leibovitz launches in London. Commissioned by UBS, the exhibition opens to the public on 16 January at Wapping Hydraulic Power Station, kicking off a 10-city world-wide tour. Access to the exhibition will be free. Photo by Stephen White, courtesy of UBS.

The exhibition features new photographs and work from the original series, as well as other unpublished photographs and there will be  a series of free learning programmes that accompany the exhibition which will explore ways of  working with young people in local schools and communities.

Annie Leibovitz began her career as a photojournalist for Rolling Stone in 1970 and is famous  for her numerous portraits for Vanity Fair, Vogue and numerous other publications.  Her most famous photographs include John Lennon, The Rolling Stones and Demi Moore.

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‘WOMEN: New Portraits’ a global tour of new photographs by Annie Leibovitz launches in London. Commissioned by UBS, the exhibition opens to the public on 16 January at Wapping Hydraulic Power Station, kicking off a 10-city world-wide tour. Access to the exhibition will be free. Photo by Stephen White, courtesy of UBS.

A walk around the exhibition is a rather surreal experience with the wide range of photographs attached  to boards, large screens showing the works and a circle of chairs all within an old part of the power station.  The exhibition is free and will run from January 16 to February 7th 2016.

Annie Leibovitz’s new photographs,will be shown in 10 cities over the next 12 months. The tour starts in London and then moves to Tokyo, San Francisco, Singapore, Hong Kong, Mexico City, Istanbul, Frankfurt, New York and Zurich.

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If you attend the exhibition, it is well worth looking around the Wapping Hydraulic Power Station which for decades provided hydraulic power to London. The hydraulic network was part of a city-wide network run by the London Hydraulic Power Company. At its height in the 1920s, the company was powering around 8,000 machines through 186 miles of pipes spread over the capital. One of the fortunate by products of the pipes in winter was they were heated, so if it snowed it would melt the snow on the pavement above.

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While the network mainly supplied lifts, cranes and dock gates, it also operated theatre machinery (including revolving stages at the London Palladium and the London Coliseum, the lifting mechanism for the cinema organ at the Leicester Square theatre and even provided the backup mechanism at Tower Bridge.

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Wapping was one of five pumping stations that kept the mains pressurised, assisted by accumulators. Other stations were based at Rotherhithe, Grosvenor Road in Pimlico, City Road in Clerkenwell and the East India Docks which was originally operated by the Port of London Authority, but was taken over and connected to the system.

The Wapping Hydraulic Power Station was built-in 1890 and was first run using steam until it was later converted to use electricity. Remarkably it remained a pumping station until 1977 when it was designated a Grade II listed building . The Leibovitz exhibition is not the first art event in the building, in the 1990s the site was converted into an arts centre called the Wapping Project and included a restaurant.

A trip to Wapping to the power station offers an unusual opportunity to see some photographs from one of America’s most famous photographers and a forgotten relic of London’s industrial past, if that is not enough over the road from the power station is the historic Prospect of Whitby pub where you can enjoy a meal and a drink.

 

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