Monday, November 10, 2003

The oddities of capitalism

On a watercolor sunshine afternoon, a wonderful friend and I walked along the bay towards Fort Mason. For those more familiar with San Francisco, the wind was only purring (sometimes it roars like a lion along the Marina Green), and the forecasted rain hung heavy in the beautiful clouds; we saw none of it, only the glorious colors of the sunset. We walked to the Annie Leibovitz exhibit in the Herbst Pavilion, "Rewarding Lives", a collection of her photography that captured famous cardmembers of American Express (the company, I might graciously add, footed the bill for the free exhibit - you can follow the link here: The Moderns, a creative agency, dreamt the translucent pods that housed various collections of photos; the icons enchanted the lens: Muhammed Ali, Ella Fitzgerald, Sammy Davis, Jr., Gwynteth Paltrow and her morther Blythe Danner, I.M. Pei, Frank Gehry, Greg Louganis, Tony Hawk, and 73 other various personalities.
The experience was spectacular until we encountered a photograph of the great filmmakers or our era. There was Martin Scorsese, Stephen Spielberg, an unmentioned man, and George Lucas. The unmentioned man was the one who helped Lucas start his feature film career in the film "American Graffiti" and a true Bay Area creative; however, he was not mentioned, we presumed, for his lack of an American Express card. Looking at the placard below the photograph, the other three were named, with a placeholder (or actual representation) of their American Express cards. Francis Ford Coppola, on the other hand, was not even recognized as appearing in the photograph.
Perhaps we harped on that one photograph too long - the rest of the exhibit was moving, the collection striking, if sometimes the written placards were a bit spotty. Still, the omission of Francis Ford Coppola affected us. Does this mean that a distinguished figure who is not a customer of a company sponsoring an artist exhibit does not exist? Obviously, many of his friends do, as evidenced by the photograph in which he was unmentioned; is he considered without substance (or even existence) for not becoming an American Express cardmember? Certainly, the point of the exhibit was to highlight Annie Leibovitz's photographs - and the immense influence of American Express. I think that the exhibit made its point, but did it have to disregard Francis Ford Coppola? Perhaps the back-story - as the build-up to the main story in movies is called - is more complicated than an omitted name on an Annie Leibovitz photograph.
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