- Chicago, Illinois, United States
- Active in
- New York, New York, United States
Simone Leigh is an interdisciplinary artist known for her ceramic and bronze sculptures, alongside decades of video, social practice, and collaborative performance. Her work centers Black femme interiority, collectivity, communality, and care. Her socially engaged projects and installations often invoke and reactivate legacies of Black revolutionary organizing, from a secret society of Black women nurses dating from the 1800s to the 1960s and ‘70s activism of the Black Panther Party and Philadelphia’s communal organization MOVE. Her sculpted forms hold under-told stories of Black resistance against colonialism, racism, sexism, and white supremacy and emphasize “a femininity that’s based on being solid as opposed to fragile.” Imaginatively deploying Black feminist theory, Leigh addresses omissions of artistic traditions and individuals from Africa and the African diaspora from the historical record through her practice.
Invested in ceramic traditions and historical omissions from her college years, when she received a BFA from Indiana’s Earlham College (1990) and spent a semester as an intern at the Smithsonian National Museum of African Art, her artistic career gained momentum with a year as artist-in-residence at the Studio Museum in Harlem in 2010. In 2018 she was awarded the Guggenheim Foundation’s prestigious Hugo Boss Prize for outstanding achievement in contemporary art. Her resulting solo exhibition at the Guggenheim Museum initiated a convening for Black women artists and intellectuals that was reanimated in 2022 when Loophole of Retreat was hosted in Venice during the international art biennale. That year Leigh became the first Black woman to represent the United States at the Venice Biennale, winning the Golden Lion for Best Participant in the central exhibition.
Other solo exhibitions have been organized by the Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston; Tate Modern, London; and LA’s Hammer Museum. Leigh’s work is in numerous collections, including the Whitney Museum of American Art, the Art Institute of Chicago, and Moderna Museet, Stockholm.