Simone Leigh Picked as the First Black Women Represent U.S. at Venice Biennale

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Shaniqwa Jarvis; Simone Leigh and Hauser & Wirth

The U.S. State Department Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs announced that Brooklyn-based sculptor, Simone Leigh was selected to be the U.S representative in the 2022 Venice Biennale exhibition on October 16. Renowned for drawing attention to black voices in her work, Leigh marks the first time an African American woman has been chosen for this position.

Established in 1895, the Venice Biennale is known to be one of the most prestigious art festivals in the world featuring artists from around the globe for over 120 years. Leigh’s presentation will run from April 23 to November 27, 2022, which will be followed by her first survey exhibition to be displayed in the Boston museum in 2023. Leigh’s exhibition was originally scheduled for 2021 but later had to be postponed for another year due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Leigh has a history of exploring the labor of black women through primarily working with ceramics and fusing them with symbols used in the African diaspora. Combining elements of black bodies with ancient pottery like jugs, vases, or pitchers is illustrated in the 16-foot bronze bust, Brick House. Referencing architecture styles from West Africa and the Southern United States, Brick House displays a black woman with a human torso but a clay house is made to represent her skirt. The top of the sculpture shows an afro at the crown of her head with cornrows framing her face.

Brick House The High Line

“I feel like I’m a part of a larger group of artists and thinkers who have reached critical mass,” Leigh told the New York Times. “And despite the really horrific climate that we’ve reached, it still doesn’t distract me from the fact of how amazing it is to be a Black artist right now.”

Partnering with students from Spellman College, an all-black liberal arts school for women in Atlanta, Leigh’s exhibition will give students the opportunity to train to become professionals in the museum field.

Brick House is currently installed on the High Line at the Spur since June 2019 and will end its run in Spring 2021.

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Simone Leigh Picked as the First Black Women Represent U.S. at Venice Biennale