Simone Leigh to represent the US at the 59th Venice Biennale

Simone Leigh

Simone Leigh, Jug, 2019. Bronze. Courtesy of the artist and The Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation. Photo by David Heald.

The Institute of Contemporary Art/Boston (ICA), in cooperation with the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, is pleased to announce that Simone Leigh will represent the United States at the 59th International Art Exhibition of La Biennale di Venezia in 2022. Leigh’s unique sculptural work explores and elevates ideas about history, race, gender, labor, and monuments, creating and reclaiming powerful narratives of Black women. She will create a new series of sculptures for the U.S. Pavilion in Venice, Italy, on view April 23–November 27, 2022.

The 2022 U.S. Pavilion is co-commissioned by Jill Medvedow, Ellen Matilda Poss Director, and Eva Respini, Barbara Lee Chief Curator at the ICA. The museum is organizing Leigh’s first survey exhibition—which will include works from the forthcoming Biennale—and a major monograph to be presented in Boston in 2023.

“Over the course of two decades, Simone Leigh has created an indelible body of work that centers the experiences and histories of Black women and at such a crucial moment in history, I can think of no better artist to represent the United States,” said Medvedow. “The scale and magnificence of Leigh’s art demands visibility and power; it is probing, timely, and urgent. We are proud and honored to share this work with audiences from around the globe at the next Biennale in Venice.”

Leigh’s new body of work for the Biennale will include a monumental bronze sculpture for the U.S. Pavilion’s outdoor forecourt. The Pavilion’s five galleries will house interrelated works in ceramic, bronze, and raffia, populating the gallery space with figurative representations for the first time in many years. Central to the project is a partnership with the Atlanta University Center Art History + Curatorial Studies Collective, an innovative program based in the Department of Art & Visual Culture at Spelman College, which prepares future curators, art historians, and museum professionals. Nikki Greene, Assistant Professor of the Arts of Africa and the African Diaspora at Wellesley College and Paul Ha, Director of the MIT List Visual Arts Center are advisors to the project.

“Simone Leigh is one of the most gifted and respected artists working today. For the U.S. Pavilion, Leigh will create a series of new sculptures and installations that address what the artist calls an ‘incomplete archive’ of Black feminist thought, with works inspired by leading Black intellectuals. Her work insists on the centrality of Black female forms within the cultural sphere, and serves as a beacon in our moment,” said Respini.

Simone Leigh’s (b. 1967, Chicago, IL) works in sculpture, video, and installation—all are informed by her ongoing exploration of the experiences of Black femmes. Her work traverses across time, geography, and cultures, and her objects often employ materials and forms traditionally associated with African art and vernacular traditions across the African Diaspora.

Leigh’s monumental sculpture Brick House is currently installed on the High Line Plinth, New York. She received the prestigious Hugo Boss Prize in 2018 and has been the subject of solo exhibitions at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York (2019); Hammer Museum, Los Angeles (2016); Studio Museum in Harlem in Marcus Garvey Park, New York (2016); Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, Bentonville, Arkansas (with Chitra Ganesh, 2016); New Museum, New York (2016); Creative Time and Weeksville Heritage Center, Brooklyn (2014); and The Kitchen, New York (2014). She has been included in group exhibitions at the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York (2019); 10th Berlin Biennale for Contemporary Art, KW Institute for Contemporary Art, Berlin (2018); New Museum, New York (2017); MoMA PS1 (2015); and Dak’Art 11th Biennale of Contemporary African Art, Dakar, Senegal (2014). Her work is in the collections of The Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York; The Art Institute of Chicago; and the ICA/Boston, among others.

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