Caesars Palace Opens Neil Leifer Gallery

Collection spotlights greatest sports photos of the 20th century

“If you are a sports fan, you have to be a Neil Leifer admirer, for you have been seeing his pictures and they’ve been shaping your impressions and memories for decades.” – Bob Costas

Las Vegas – Sept. 15, 2006 – Caesars Palace in Las Vegas announced today the opening of the Neil Leifer Gallery, – the only permanent art gallery spotlighting the celebrated photographer’s unforgettable images of sports and culture. Leifer’s photos have chronicled the lives of an entire generation. More than 200 have graced the covers of Sports Illustrated, Time and People magazines.

Located on the casino level of the resort’s new Augustus Tower, the Neil Leifer (“lifer”) Gallery will debut with his most acclaimed sports photos, including Muhammad Ali’s victory over Sonny Liston – a split-second, crystal-clear glimpse of the charisma that would define a new era in boxing and in sport. Ali-Liston was chosen as the cover photograph for a Sports Illustrated issue titled “The Century’s Greatest Sports Photos.” The August 2003 edition of London’s Observer Sport Monthly chose Leifer’s “Muhammad Ali vs. Cleveland Williams” picture No. 1, and his Ali-Liston image No. 2 in its ranking of the “World’s 50 Greatest Sports Photographs.”

“Neil Leifer’s photographs chronicle sport as well as any journalist’s words,” said Frank DeFord. “His photograph of Muhammad Ali standing over a fallen Sonny Liston is the most legendary sports photograph of the 20th century.”

Other celebrated photographic images on display at Caesars Palace will include Secretariat winning the Kentucky Derby, famed football personalities Vince Lombardi, Joe Namath and Bear Bryant, and President John Kennedy with Vice President Lyndon Johnson after the president’s first pitch at baseball’s opening day in 1961.

“What Matthew Brady did for the Civil War era, and Ansel Adams did for the American landscape, Neil has accomplished in pictures that immortalize sports heroes and modern culture,” said Caesars Palace President Gary Selesner. “Our guests will particularly like his sports photos. You see them and are transported to another time, reliving some of the most memorable events in sports and in life.”

Growing up in New York’s Lower East Side, Leifer began submitting photos to Sports Illustrated and Life magazine in 1958, at the tender age of 16. He was only 18 when SI published the first of his 170 cover photos.

Stalking history in his viewfinder, he left Sports Illustrated in 1978 to join the staff of Time magazine where his 40 cover photo subjects ranged from President Ronald Reagan with Vice President George H.W. Bush to the Space Shuttle Columbia; from animals of Africa to Pope John Paul II’s Visit to America. Newsweek published Leifer’s preview cover of America’s Olympic basketball Dream Team.

His Olympics photos captured the US hockey team’s “miracle on ice” victory over Russia, Kristi Yamaguchi defying gravity, and Eric Heiden’s five speed skating gold medals. In 1984, Time magazine published photo essays of Leifer’s round-the-world trek depicting leading Olympic hopefuls in distinctive home country locations.

Leifer has published 12 books, among them his best-selling 1978 Abrams coffee table book, Sports, The Best of Leifer, the Abbeville Press retrospective of his 40-year career (with introduction by George Plimpton), and 2003’s Neil Leifer: Portraits, published by St. Ann’s Press, with an introduction by Tom Brokaw. In October 2006, Leifer’s newest book, A Year In Sports, will be published by Abbeville Press. The 350-page book will be introduced by Frank DeFord.

His books and photographs have toured prestigious art galleries in dozens of Leifer exhibits, but the Caesars Palace venue will be the first that is dedicated specifically to his work and is the only gallery that bears his name. Among the prominent galleries that have showcased Leifer’s work have been the Monroe Gallery of Photography, in Santa Fe, N.M.; the Pop International Gallery, in New York City and the Millenia Gallery, in New York City and in Orlando, Fla. His exhibitions also include the prestigious International Festival of Photojournalism, “Visa Pour L’Image” in Perpignan, France.

In 1979, Leifer took a year off from photography to direct the feature film “Yesterday’s Hero,” written by Jackie Collins and produced by Elliot Kastner with stars Suzanne Somers and Ian McShane. Among his many film and documentary credits, Leifer directed “Trading Hearts,” which starred Raul Julia and Beverly D’Angelo and the Emmy-nominated ESPN documentary “You Write Better Than You Play.”

Leifer’s work has been celebrated in television features – HBO’s “Real Sports” and in a two-hour special, “The Best of Leifer” on ESPN.

On Oct. 30, 2006, he will receive the prestigious Lucie Award – the premiere honor in photography – for outstanding achievement in sports photography.

The gallery opening coincides with installation of 17 giant Leifer photos in the resort’s new Poker Room. Some are images Leifer created while covering events at Caesars Palace. These include Sonny Liston playing solitaire at the famed resort, Muhammad Ali and Diana Ross at the front of the hotel, and Sugar Ray Leonard battling Thomas Hearns in their record-breaking 1981 boxing showdown. The Caesars Palace Poker Room is open 24 hours to guests age 21 or older.

“I came straight from the airport, and when I looked into the Caesars Palace gallery that bears my name, I was almost driven to tears,” said Leifer. “Seeing my life’s work exhibited so beautifully and knowing that it will be here for years to come is just the thrill of a lifetime.”

The Neil Leifer Gallery at Caesars Palace is open seven days weekly, from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Admission is free of charge.

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