Spike Lee, JR, Ralph Gibson, and More Joined Leica at Its New York Gallery Debut

Jackson Lee and Spike Lee at Leica's New York outpost. All photography by Sansho Scott/BFA and courtesy of Leica.

A Leica camera is the new “it” bag. You’ll regularly find one slung around the neck of actor Jacob Elordi, known for his fashion-forward looks, or filmmaker Spike Lee, who was at the opening of the brand’s new flagship store and gallery in Manhattan on March 14. 

Guests, many of whom sported their Leica model of choice over their shoulders, arrived in droves to the Meatpacking District outpost. It was the rare event where “what are you shooting with?” was as common a greeting as "how have you been?" A Leica connotes a lifestyle—one dedicated to exploration and aesthetic excellence. As such, the art world made a significant showing, with photographers Andre D. Wagner, Maddie Greer, JR, Frank Jackson, and Ralph Gibson in attendance. 

Another of Leica’s great champions, the late Elliott Erwitt, was memorialized with the presentation “Love & Laughter,” an homage to his humorous and compelling oeuvre. Large-scale prints of his iconic shots of Marilyn Monroe and Marlene Dietrich, along with others featuring dogs (a lifelong obsession) and urban life, adorned the walls of the spacious ground-floor gallery. A video tribute officially announced his posthumous induction into the Leica Hall of Fame. 

With Leica Gallery New York, the third of its kind in the United States, the brand aims to cement its pole position in not only photography history, but also its future. “Our goal is to curate exhibitions that explore different themes, styles, and genres within the world of photography,” explained gallery director Michael Foley. “This diversity allows us to appeal to a broad spectrum of photographers and art enthusiasts, and to celebrate the art form in all its omnifarious manifestations.” 

Frank Jackson and Ralph Gibson.

The next exhibition features the work of the 2023 Leica Oskar Barnack Award winner Ismail Ferdous. But Leica’s products themselves are also works of art, and are presented as such in the new boutique. Curated display cases house the precision-engineered cameras and accessories, as well as the Leica watch collection.

Upstairs at the event, a live jazz band played and the tent covering the space’s rooftop patio, which overlooks the gallery through three massive skylights, proved extraneous. All remained warm and dry as guests sidled up to the bar for a negroni and a look at the massive ice sculpture meticulously crafted to resemble (of course) a Leica camera. Overlooking the crowd, Leica Camera North America President Mike Giannattasio shared his vision for the space as “a convergence of art, culture, high tech, and high touch.” Its opening delivered on all fronts.