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Simone Leigh.

Simone Leigh to Represent United States at 2022 Venice Biennale

Boston’s Institute of Contemporary Art today announced in conjunction with the US State Department Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs that sculptor Simone Leigh will represent the US at the Fifty-Ninth Venice Biennale, which is to take place April 23–November 27, 2022. Leigh is the first African American woman to receive the honor in the biennale’s 125-year history. The Brooklyn-based artist, known for her work examining history, race, gender, and labor, will create a new series of sculptures for the US pavilion, which is co-commissioned by Boston ICA director Jill Medvedow and chief curator Eva Respini. 

“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 in a statement. “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 contributions to the pavilion will include a monumental bronze sculpture for the structure’s outdoor forecourt, as well as interrelated figurative works in ceramic, bronze, and raffia, which will populate the pavilion’s five galleries. The sculptures will address “what the artist calls an ‘incomplete archive’ of Black feminist thought,” Respini said, “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.”

The project is being undertaken in partnership with the Atlanta University Center Art History + Curatorial Studies Collective, a Spelman College program that trains 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, will serve as advisors to the project.

The Boston ICA is currently organizing Leigh’s first survey exhibition—which will include works from the forthcoming Biennale—to be presented in Boston in 2023 and accompanied by a major monograph.

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