Simone Leigh Will Be First Black Woman to Represent U.S. at Venice Biennale

Simone Leigh is widely-recognized for large-scale sculptures that center upon the experiences of Black women. The artist often utilizes materials and forms that are connected with African art. One of her seminal pieces is a work titled Brick House, a five-meter-tall bronze sculpture portraying a Black woman that is currently installed on the High Line greenway in New York City. Leigh’s works are in the permanent collections of The Whitney Museum of American Art, The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum and The Art Institute of Chicago, among others.

Leigh will be the first Black woman to represent the United States at the prestigious arts festival, the Venice Biennale, launching in 2022. The State Department’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs and Boston’s Institute of Contemporary Art (ICA) announced the artist’s representation this past Wednesday.

The artist is currently based in Brooklyn, New York and rarely discusses her work to the media. However, she told The New York Times that the country’s social unrest “doesn’t distract me from the fact of how amazing it is to be a Black artist right now.” Jill Medvedow, director of the Boston museum, also expressed in a statement: “At such a crucial moment in history, I can think of no better artist to represent the United States.” She praised Leigh’s work for the past twenty years “that centers the experiences and histories of Black women,” calling them “probing, timely and urgent.”

The Boston museum, which is currently staging the artist’s first museum survey, says that Leigh is creating new sculptures to be shown at the 59th Biennale from April 23 to November 27, 2022. The artist’s works were initially set to go on display next year, but the COVID-19 crisis postponed the festival to the following year.

Head to the Venice Biennale’s website for more information.

Elsewhere in art, Portland protestors toppled statues of Theodore Roosevelt and Abraham Lincoln in response to Columbus Day.
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