Liebovitz in Deep S*it

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Liebovitz in Deep S*it

Annie Leibovitz is now in a lawsuit with the art finance company, Art Capital, who lent her $24 million against the rights to all her photographs. News of Leibovitz’s lawsuit broke last week. Coming into focus is a picture of an esteemed photographer with irresponsible and reckless business practices in utter financial chaos.

I wrote about Leivobitz's financial troubles a few months back in an effort to dispell a fallacy the gay press ran with. Afterellen writer Julia Miranda blamed Leibovitz's financial troubles on the estate tax, erroneously calling it the "gay tax," stemming from assumed inheritance left her by Susan Sontag. The New York Times also debunked this claim in their latest article on Leibovitz's financial fiasco. Apparently, the only thing Sontag left Leibovitz were a few "sentimental items."

According to Gawker, Leibovitz ran into trouble last year with a fashion stylist who claimed Liebovtiz owed her more than half a million in unpaid bills. Then a lighting company, B2Pro, who rented equipment to the photographer sued for $227,000 in unpaid bills.

The New York Times reports that Leibovitz encountered additional difficulties when she ended up in litigation over “renovation on three adjoining town houses she bought on West 11th Street in Manhattan, with federal and state tax liens of more than $1.4 million.”

Leibovitz’s accumulated debt caused her to approach Art Capital Group last September, gaining a line of credit totaling $24 million against her entire library of intellectual property and real estate. The loan comes due next month, at which time Leibovitz is expected to repay it, or Art Capital sells her catalog and her homes.

Annie Leibovitz is reported to earn $3 million dollars a year from her work as a photographer for Vanity Fair and Vogue, earning additional tens of thousands in advertising shoots. Let me break that down for you, that’s $62,500 or more a week!

The New York Times quotes Leibovitz's boss at Vanity Fair, Editor-in-Chief Gradon Carter: “The mind that can take these extraordinary pictures is not necessarily the same mind that is a perfect money manager.”

Art Capital’s suit is alleging that “Ms. Leibovitz has stated she will not cooperate with Art Capital in the sale of the rights to her photographs, and that she has engaged in 'boldly deceptive conduct' and failed to pay hundreds of thousands of dollars due under her agreements with Art Capital.”

To complicate this saga, Art Capital is now in a lawsuit with Getty Images (the largest stock photo agency in the world).

The suit states that Art Capital had been in talks with Getty over a sale of Ms. Leibovitz’s archive, valuing it at more than $50 million. Art Capital alleged it also offered Getty a chance to hire Ms. Leibovitz to take freelance assignments. The suit charged that Getty then went directly to Ms. Leibovitz and signed her for $1.1 million to do eight shoots over two years.

Sucks to be rich and powerful, so damn much to lose...

Comments [125]

Grace Moon's picture


I'm kinda sad I missed all the commentary on this blog while I was away.

The only thing i want to add is that, Blackwell you are a royal pain in my ass.

me thinks it may be you projecting yourself in this blog, but i'm too tired to psychoanalyze it now.

tweet tweet @gracemoon

SMBrown's picture

Grace, I'm sorry you missed

Grace, I'm sorry you missed it as well, especially because arguing with Erin can really wear a girl out!

Rusty's picture

You are better than me

I'd had enough with defending Jill and Kevin's Wedding Entrance. I checked today and they added a link to the Sheila Wellstone Institute.


From their site:

Support Violence Prevention!

Violence prevention and intervention is an important issue to both Jill and Kevin. Jill's current PhD work focuses on breaking cycles of violence in society. She has also worked in restorative justice and community mediation. Kevin is headed to law school due to his passion for social justice.

Sheila Wellstone was an advocate, organizer, and national champion in the effort to end domestic violence in our communities.

Personally, I could watch their video again, and again, and again:

"When you look for the bad in mankind expecting to find it, you surely will." ~ Pollyanna

Grace Moon's picture

i owe you

one Wink

tweet tweet @gracemoon

peacekitty's picture

We missed you.

We missed you.

"Fight Prime Time. Read a Book"

Grace Moon's picture


to have a community to come back to.


tweet tweet @gracemoon

skate's picture

other great gay photographers

mark morrisroe

peter hujar

Erin Blackwell's picture

catherine opie diane arbus,

catherine opie

diane arbus, wasn't she queer?

who photographed "you"?

skate's picture

Not me!  I scuba dive and see

Not me!  I scuba dive and see skates often, but I don't do underwater photography.

yonks's picture

I love scuba dive too

Younger, i was doing it almost every week end.

Now i try to do it at list ones per year.

-Do not follow me, I'M LOST-

skate's picture

screwed up

screwed up

camomileroses's picture

i would guess that many of us

i would guess that many of us make mistakes that affect our lives in the same profound way that annie's mistakes have affected her life.  i know i have and i'm relieved that the world didn't get to scrutinize my blunders.  the only difference between annie and "us" is that money and fame exaggerate the idiosyncracies most of us possess so we can see them more clearly.

"there will never be a technology more advanced than the human mind - fully engaged in the divine process of being. technology is a tool not a destination." me.

SMBrown's picture

Well said


Steph's picture

I'll second that!!!

I'll second that!!!

Annie Oaklee's picture

am i missing something?

I don't get this part:

"...Art Capital, who lent her $24 million against the rights to all her photographs..."

So, why was it wrong for Getty to approach Liebo personally? Sounds like Art C purchased rights to existing photography, not to be serving as Annie's agent.

Sorry to see any dyke named Annie in this much of a mess. Especially after the death of her lover not too long ago (RIP Susan Sontag forever in my heart!)


Joanne Robertson's picture

That's alot of money ...

I get that she did a bad property investment/renovation in Manhattan, but I wonder what the rest of her fortune went on?

Annie's obviously not a femme fashion plate - no $5,000 purses for her ... but even if she was, she would be given alot for free by designers etc ...

I guess we shouldn't be surprised by an artist going financially bust ... if Michael Jackson ended up virtually penniless and Trump (the fraud) has business failures all the time ... I bet there are alot of public pop culture figures drowning in debt.

Annie has 3 kids, so hopefully she has some hidden assets (or rich pals) to settle this ... and hopefully her kids will be left with some rights to her work.

LongBeachDogLover's picture

Obviously, she's an idiot. I

Obviously, she's an idiot. I wonder if we could pick up any cheap pieces at a sidewalk art festival?  Hell, I'd give her twenty bucks for that one with the little sleeping babies.... they are soooo cute.   LMAO   



Annie Oaklee's picture

must object!

LongBeach, anyone who was Susan Sontag's partner for years n years is guaranteed no idiot.

LongBeachDogLover's picture


Let me rephrase it - the girl can't balance her checkbook, obviously.   Smile

Erin Blackwell's picture

maybe the accountant and the

maybe the accountant and the lawyer are taking a cut over at "Art Capital"

camomileroses's picture

yes, the accountant and

yes, the accountant and lawyer need to be examined.  that's where the real lawsuit may be.

"there will never be a technology more advanced than the human mind - fully engaged in the divine process of being. technology is a tool not a destination." me.

Erin Blackwell's picture

am i dreaming or did i post a

am i dreaming or did i post a comment about martha stewart, comparing her to AL as a woman who'd made a contribution to our lives, only to be *sent to prison* while soooo many others walked free. i mean the real bastards, the financial wizards who contribute *nothing* to our lives except RUIN. anyway, i meant to.

i wonder why people want to lecture AL on financial planning but won't take on the criminals who are destroying millions of lives?

SMBrown's picture

Who's judging?

Who's lecturing?  I'm certainly not (well, except on the real estate angle where she selfishly fucked her neighbors over for years).  Nor do I think the blog is.  I totally agree with you regarding Martha--the SEC was pursuing her while Madoff was skating away with billions.  But hard as I try to see your point on tying this to the banking fiasco I can't.  For me, when someone with this amount of money gets into this kind of financial mess it's not about money.  It's about some deeper personal issue--it comes from the same place as drug/alcohol abuse, over-eating etc.  It's deeply personal.  

Erin Blackwell's picture

usury. we're up to our

usury. we're up to our eyeballs in usurers. there oughta be a LAW against these people. they're sucking up all the money, destroying the fruits of honest laborers, wrecking the treasuries of nations, and the value of currency itself.

AL creates value, then signs it away to these vultures who get it rock-bottom prices — the rights to her work into the future. it's disgusting. they're parasites. these financial wizards prey on the poor, middle-class, and wealthy. they don't pick'n'choose. if someone needs to lie on the couch, it's these a**holes.



SMBrown's picture

  Annie's a COMMERCIAL


Annie's a COMMERCIAL artist, Erin, whose work only has value BECAUSE of these 'vultures' or usurers or whatever you want to call them.  She's made millions off of photographing fucking celebrities, give me a break--don't you think that has something to do with creating 'value'?  She's as capitalist as they come.

Erin Blackwell's picture

huh? commercial artist means


commercial artist means yeah, she doesn't work unless she gets paid. just like everybody else. what's wrong with that? just because people expect artists to work for free and starve doesn't mean they have to work their guts out so people can jack up the prices of their work, posthumously. yeah, she photographed celebrities. so what? that's where the work was she chose to do. she satisfied her employers. i still don't see the crime.

bankers have nothing to do with her earning her living. they're not the ones who pay her.

usurers have poisoned the water in their, and unfortunately everyone else's, well. this has nothing to do with "capitalism" and everything to do with thievery. but unlike normal thieves, they've also devalued the currency and wrecked the economies of individuals, groups, and states. as a class they have neither been stopped nor punished. the system has *not* been corrected. if anything, bad behavior's being rewarded still.

the criminality in the financial services industry is deep-rooted and started to spin out of control under Reagan, in this country. there's plenty of analysis of this online. you can start with nobel-prizer paul krugman in the nyt.

SMBrown's picture

I'm not going to argue about

I'm not going to argue about the banks--not only is that some other blog, but I already read Krugman, thank you.  No, photographing celebrities, or painting them, as Elizabeth Peyton does for thousands upon thousands isn't criminal, but it's suckling on the teet of the monied--and where do you think all that money comes from?  All the 'wealth' created by the flippin' banks.  We're not talking about what Annie makes doing a shoot for Vanity Fair, we're talking about the value of her photos on the open market--and that market ain't on Main Street, it's on Wall Street.

If you want to argue that Art Capital shouldn't have given her the loan in the first place--fine.  Then she would have been bankrupt a few years earlier, but still had the rights to her work.  If you go to a loan-shark, expect to get your legs broken.  

Have a look at how she got herself into such debt in the first place and you'll see she's just as greedy as the banks.  As Grace so aptly put it in her previous Annie blog: boo-fucking-hoo.

Erin Blackwell's picture

so AL has apparently been

so AL has apparently been designated the official VP scapegoat. i find that ironic, given moon's artism, and sad, given AL's high-profile lesbianation. and i still don't see the purpose of this moronic, mean-spirited, condescending blog.

SMBrown's picture

Erin, have you been drinking

Erin, have you been drinking from AO's Palin trough?  We shouldn't criticize AL because she's an artist and a lesbian?  First of all, your arguments about her somehow being a victim of the banks has directly led to criticism--it wasn't in the blog, nor in my original comments.  I am immensely sympathetic to Annie's plight in the sense that she has fucked up big time and is now going to have to pay a huge price.  That is tragic.  What would be MORE tragic is if she has people around her who are enabling her, as you are, by suggesting this is somehow not her fault.  This is not the case of some ditzy artist forgetting to pay her bills or getting bad financial advice. The magnitude of this, the fact that her financial woes have gotten deeper and deeper over the course of time, despite the fact that she continues to earn millions, indicates she is OUT OF CONTROL and needs to come to grips with the 'why' of that.

Tough love in this case is the greatest kindness. 

Annie Oaklee's picture

AO's Palin trough

ahhhh...drinking from AO's "Palin trough"...I love it!

SMBrown's picture

Hope it's thirst-quenching,

Hope it's thirst-quenching, Annie.   Wink

minniesota's picture


I have some sympathy for her financial woes but I don't know all the details and I'm not crying her a river. I read the NYTime's article and it seems  some of her debt woes stem from some real estate issues. In the meantime, the real estate and the art markets have fallen, making it difficult to raise capital. But, as far as I can tell, she is the one who approached Art Capital for a loan and agreed to use the rights to her works as part of the collateral. It seems to me that she made a deal with the devil and now must pay the piper (mixing metaphors).

Still searching for the right brainy quote.

peacekitty's picture

You did a great job mixing

You did a great job mixing those metaphors articulate your thoughts very well.  I'm kind of jealous.  Wink

"Fight Prime Time. Read a Book"

peacekitty's picture

Well I suppose if it's okay

Well I suppose if it's okay to call Americans stupid and "cultureless" then it's okay to criticize a millionaire artist who squandered her money.  Michael Jackson comes to mind as a similar example.  He made over 800 million dollars and yet was over 500 million in debt?

People who earn and mismanage that much money should expect some criticism.

Seriously, if I had millions of dollars I would spend modestly and wisely and give a lot of it to social organizations and charities.


"Fight Prime Time. Read a Book"

Erin Blackwell's picture

ok, so if i accept your

ok, so if i accept your analogy, i have to see that Moon is projecting herself onto Liebovitz, which makes sense, they're both artists. Moon identifies with Liebovitz, and while she might aspire to her success, is terrified of Liebovitz's failure to protect herself from ruin, despite a phenomenal career, nearly unique for a woman artist. so Moon writes the blog as a kind of cautionary tale, to herself. unfortunately, the peanut gallery that's only too happy to throw trash at the latest target, jump onboard, without reflecting on their own motivations.

when i say "americans are stupid and cultureless," i'm afraid for my country, left to the mercy of its own failure to think, to study, to question the greedy bastards who have dumbed us down the better to fleece us. i'm worried for the world we presumed to be the leaders of, left at the mercy of a "ruler" whose decisions are DISASTROUS for the planet, for indigenous cultures, for our own and other species. we are our own negative object lesson. and i presume "culture" would save us but i could be wrong.


Annie Oaklee's picture

we embrace stupide

Americans are stupid – well, at least many, many, boatloads of them are! Without culture, tho, no. Stupidity influences/forms our culture. We embrace it.

Annie Oaklee's picture

the insufferable

Michael Jackson was a victim of child abuse.

Annie Leibovitz had to watch her extraordinary, brilliant lover of _?_ (many) years die of cancer.

I have a lot of compassion for both. Sure, many of us would love to have so much money and we're all convinced that we'd do great things with it. But everyone has their weaknesses and most people aren't strong and capable in every aspect of their lives.

I'm with Erin. Being informed is one thing. But I'd rather see this site supporting women rather than ridiculing them.

SMBrown's picture

Annie, I have compassion for

Annie, I have compassion for them both as well, but Erin's argument is not about compassion, it's about blaming this whole thing on the banks, treating AL as a victim, which I'm not even sure Annie sees herself as.  As we saw with Michael, if pain keeps getting swept under the rug, if the person never reaches the rock-bottom necessary to make them realize they need to change their lives, only greater pain ensues.  In her words Erin is being a grand enabler, which ultimately isn't very compassionate.  

Erin Blackwell's picture

i'm concerned with

i'm concerned with journalistic integrity and where you aim your venom. this isn't about "enabling." it's about how and what you cover and why and being clear about that and not rehashing human-disaster stories without thoughtfulness.

there's a tradition of the designated powerful woman being held up to ridicule. Liebovitz stands in for financial excess, in a time of economic collapse, but she's not a banker, she didn't create the ruin we've all inherited. she's a worker, however well-rewarded for her technical mastery. i repeat, she created value, something banks can't.

SMBrown's picture

I agree with most of your

I agree with most of your second paragraph--however I think most of us on here are sophisticated enough to not view Annie so simplistically as a 'stand-in' for excess.

As for venom and journalistic integrity, again the blog itself was not venomous, though it did make the significant point that the establishment gay press got it wrong that Annie was a financial victim because of the legally unrecognized status of her relationship with Sontag--so your accusation that Grace's blog is just some re-hash human-disaster story is dead-wrong too.  

I also find it a might bit noxious that you're attacking the integrity of this blog with such 'venom' whilst Grace is off at Michigan and incommunicado and unable to defend herself...

Erin Blackwell's picture

my ass is grass! but at least

my ass is grass! but at least i made her blog look popular!

SMBrown's picture


Now I see the method in the madness! 

Tex's picture

By all means let me help!

Let's get the numbers up!

Twitter Time @kdhales

SMBrown's picture


Yeah, who knew blogging was just a numbers game?

Annie Oaklee's picture


just wanna see how skinny this column can get...

camomileroses's picture

ha ha ha ... good idea ......

ha ha ha ... good idea ...... [can the blog withstand one more before the dyke (dike?) explodes?]

"there will never be a technology more advanced than the human mind - fully engaged in the divine process of being. technology is a tool not a destination." me.

camomileroses's picture

gasping for air ... please

gasping for air ... please can someone take my finger out of this dyke.  i think she's about to BLOWWWWWW!  i hate hans brinker!!!!

"there will never be a technology more advanced than the human mind - fully engaged in the divine process of being. technology is a tool not a destination." me.

Not2Taem's picture


Precious, you are!

CA_Medicine_Woman's picture


Never seen a comment thread do this before Laughing out loud

SMBrown's picture

Skinnier still??

Skinnier still??