The Artsy Vanguard 2020: Sonia Boyce

Allyssia Alleyne
Sep 11, 2020 8:00PM

Sonia Boyce

B. 1962, London. Lives and works in London.

Sonia Boyce, Devotional Collection, 1999–ongoing. Courtesy of the artist and Apalazzogallery.


British-Caribbean artist Sonia Boyce has a résumé stacked with firsts. When Tate acquired her drawing Missionary Position II (1985) in 1987, she became the first Black woman to enter its permanent collection. In 2016, the Royal Academy of Arts elected her to its ranks, making her the first Black female academician in its 248-year history. And earlier this year, it was announced that Boyce would represent Britain at the 2022 Venice Biennale, making her the first Black woman to receive that honor.

Boyce, who shows with Apalazzogallery, moves fluidly between disciplines, from drawing and printmaking to photography and performance. She has explored the intersection of race, class, and gender since the 1980s, when she was part of Britain’s groundbreaking Black arts movement. Improvisation and collaboration—whether with sound artists and singers, as was the case at her 2018 Manchester Art Gallery retrospective, or with dancers, the stars of her 2017 show at London’s Institute of Contemporary Arts—are long-standing hallmarks, used as tools for creative storytelling and community building.

That Boyce is only now being recognized at the world’s most prestigious art event says more about the art world’s shifting priorities than it does about her. Even while plunging the depths of her subject matter and expanding the borders of her creative remit, she has remained nothing if not consistent.

The Artsy Vanguard 2020

The Artsy Vanguard 2020 is our annual list of the most promising artists shaping the future of contemporary art. This year, artists are organized into two categories: Newly Emerging, which presents artists who’ve gained momentum in the past year, showing at leading institutions and galleries; and Getting Their Due, which identifies artists who have persevered for decades, yet only recently received the spotlight they deserve. Now in its third edition, the feature was developed by the Artsy staff, in collaboration with our network of international curators and art professionals. Explore more of The Artsy Vanguard 2020.

Allyssia Alleyne

Header and thumbnail image, from left to right: Sonia Boyce, “For you, only you,” 2007/2013; Sonia Boyce, “Devotional Collection,” 1999–ongoing; Portrait of Sonia Boyce; Sonia Boyce, “The Audition,” 1997. All images: courtesy of the artist and Apalazzogallery.

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