Simone Leigh will represent the United States at the 2022 Venice Biennale.

Justin Kamp
Oct 14, 2020 6:40PM, via ICA Boston

Simone Leigh photographed at Stratton Sculpture Studios, 2020. Photo by Shaniqwa Jarvis courtesy Hauser and Wirth.

Simone Leigh has been chosen to represent the United States at the 2022 Venice Biennale, making her the first Black woman to represent the country since the Biennale started in 1895. Leigh was chosen by the co-commissioners of the U.S. pavilion, Jill Medvedow and Eva Respini, director and chief curator of the Institute of Contemporary Art Boston (ICA), respectively.

Medvedow said of choosing Leigh:

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. The scale and magnificence of Leigh’s art demands visibility and power; it is probing, timely, and urgent.

Leigh is best known for her sculptural practice, which incorporates materials and figures associated with African and diasporic art into explorations of Black womanhood. For the U.S. pavilion, she will create a number of works in bronze, ceramic, and raffia, including a monumental bronze sculpture situated in the pavilion’s forecourt. She will also partner with the Atlanta University Center Art History + Curatorial Studies Collective, a program focused on developing the careers of Black curators, art historians, and museum professionals. The partnership will see young professionals in these fields have the chance to collaborate with Leigh during preparation for the Biennale.

Leigh has received widespread institutional acclaim over the course of her career. She has received solo exhibitions at the Guggenheim Museum in New York, the Hammer Museum in Los Angeles, the Studio Museum in Harlem, and Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in Arkansas, among others. She is the recipient of numerous prestigious awards and accolades, including a Guggenheim fellowship, a Creative Capital grant, a Blade of Grass fellowship, the Studio Museum in Harlem's Joyce Alexander Wein Artist Prize, the Guggenheim Museum's Hugo Boss Prize, and a United States Artists fellowship. Her work is in the collections of The Whitney Museum of American Art, the Guggenheim, the Art Institute of Chicago, and the ICA Boston. In 2023, the ICA will put on Leigh’s first survey exhibition, which will feature works from the Venice Biennale.

The Venice Biennale announcement is the most recent development in a remarkable year for Leigh who joined Hauser & Wirth’s artist roster in January. Meanwhile, a Sotheby’s auction in March saw the record-breaking sale of Leigh’s 2015 sculpture, DECATUR (COBALT), which sold for well over four times its high estimate at $337,500. According to Artsy data, interest in Leigh’s work on the platform has steadily increased, with annual inquiries nearly doubling year over year between 2016 and 2018.

Justin Kamp
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