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Simone Leigh Wins 2018 Hugo Boss Prize

The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York announced tonight that the Brooklyn-based artist Simone Leigh has been awarded the $100,000 Hugo Boss Prize, which honors significant achievements in contemporary art. Leigh is the twelfth artist to receive the biennial prize, and an exhibition of her work will be staged at the Guggenheim Museum in April 2019. The other finalists for the prize included Bouchra Khalili, Teresa Margolles, Emeka Ogboh, Frances Stark, and Wu Tsang—who was just named a recipient of a 2018 MacArthur Grant.

Born in Chicago in 1967, Leigh was recognized for her ceramics, videos, and installations that often explore black female subjectivity, ethnography, beauty, racial politics, and postcolonial theory, and was praised for elevating the medium of ceramics and for mentoring younger artists. Solo presentations of Leigh’s work have been staged by the Hammer Museum in Los Angeles; the Studio Museum in Harlem, New York; and the Kitchen in New York. The artist’s work has also been featured in numerous group exhibitions, including the 2018 edition of the Berlin Biennale; “Trigger: Gender as a Tool and a Weapon” (2017) at the New Museum in New York; “Unconventional Clay: Engaged in Change” (2016) at the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art in Kansas City; and “Radical Presence: Black Performance in Contemporary Art” (2012) at the Contemporary Arts Museum Houston.

Chaired by the Guggenheim Museum’s artistic director and chief curator, Nancy Spector, this year’s prize jury comprised Sofía Hernández Chong Cuy Hernández, director of the Witte de With Center for Contemporary Art in Rotterdam; Dan Fox, editor at large of Frieze; Bisi Silva, artistic director at the Centre for Contemporary Art in Lagos; Susan Thompson, associate curator at the Guggenheim Museum; and Joan Young, director of curatorial affairs at the Guggenheim Museum.

“Leigh’s singular vision unifies a body of work in sculpture, video, performance, and social projects that deftly joins theory, practice, and form in a tightly coherent oeuvre characterized by a close engagement with the body, the symbolic activation of material, and narrative references to African diasporic histories. . . . We are particularly compelled by Leigh’s longstanding and unwavering commitment to addressing black women as both the subject of and audience for her work, a focus which imagines a recalibration of the outmoded power structures that shape contemporary society. This emphasis on centering the black female experience is profoundly inspiring in its simultaneous radicality and necessity.”

Previous recipients of the Hugo Boss Prize include Tacita Dean, Hans-Peter Feldmann, Danh Vo, and Anicka Yi.