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Hirshhorn Museum Presents “Simone Leigh,” First Museum Survey Exhibition Dedicated to the Artist on Its National Tour

Installation Will Debut Three New Sculpture Alongside Artworks From Leigh’s U.S. Representation at 2022 Venice Biennale; On View Nov. 3–March 3, 2024

Simone Leigh, “Herm” (2023). Bronze, 98 x 30 x 28 inches (249 x 76 x 71 cm). Copyright Simone Leigh, Courtesy Matthew Marks Gallery.
Simone Leigh, “Herm” (2023). Bronze, 98 x 30 x 28 inches (249 x 76 x 71 cm). Copyright Simone Leigh, Courtesy Matthew Marks Gallery.

The Smithsonian’s Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden will present “Simone Leigh,” bringing the first museum survey of the acclaimed artist’s artworks before a national audience in Washington, D.C.

Leigh represented the United States at the 59th International Art Exhibition of La Biennale di Venezia through a commission by the Institute of Contemporary Art/Boston (ICA). Curated in tandem to that landmark presentation, the exhibition “Simone Leigh” will showcase works from Leigh’s Venice exhibition alongside three new bronze sculptures, which will be shown for the first time at the Hirshhorn Nov. 3–March 3, 2024. Leigh’s full-floor installation will also feature key early works and video to demonstrate her consistent and careful attention to the creative and critical labor of Black women across almost 20 years of highly disciplined practice.  

“We are honored to have collaborated with Simone Leigh on this exhibition, which offers a point-of-view that expands beyond our founding tradition—with modernist sculpture central to Joseph Hirshhorn’s collection and the basis for this museum—with her singular and necessary contemporary perspective,” said Melissa Chiu, Hirshhorn director. “We thank the artist and ICA for their partnership.”

Over the past two decades, Leigh has created works of art that situate questions of Black femme, or female-identified, subjectivity at the center of contemporary art discourse. Her sculpture, video, installation and social practice explore ideas of race, beauty and community in visual and material culture. Leigh’s art addresses a wide swath of historical periods, geographies and traditions, with specific references to vernacular and handmade processes from across the African diaspora, as well as forms traditionally associated with African art and ritual, all while mining historical gaps, inaccuracies and fallacies.

“Simone Leigh” will feature sculpture in an array of Leigh’s material vocabulary, including ceramic, bronze and raffia. A selection of her table-top ceramics will accentuate her fluency in the medium of ceramics, including references to the Black American folk and self-taught art traditions of stoneware face vessels—citations that are present in her large ceramic works, which draw on the vernacular traditions of the American South, Caribbean and African continent, and challenge traditional hierarchies of art and labor. These works, at both intimate and large scale, reference domestic vessels such as bowls and jugs merged with explorations of the body. For the Hirshhorn’s presentation, the artist will introduce three recent sculptures: “Bisi” (2023), “Herm” (2023) and “Vessel” (2023). Leigh’s attention to the Black female form over time and in various materials underlines her consistent vision.

Prior to the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, a version of this traveling exhibition was presented at the ICA/Boston. The tour will conclude in a joint presentation at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art and California African American Museum from June 2024 through January 2025. The first comprehensive scholarly monograph on Leigh’s work, co-published by the ICA/Boston and DelMonico Books—including images of works on view and installation views from Leigh’s Venice presentation as well as images of work from throughout her career—accompanies the exhibition. “Simone Leigh” was organized by Eva Respini, deputy director and director of curatorial programs, Vancouver Art Gallery (former Barbara Lee Chief Curator, ICA/Boston), with Anni Pullagura, assistant curator, ICA/Boston. The Hirshhorn’s presentation has been coordinated by Curator Anne Reeve with support from CJ Greenhill Caldera, curatorial assistant.
About Simone Leigh

Leigh’s (b. 1967; Chicago) works in sculpture, video and installation—all are informed by her ongoing exploration of the experiences of Black femmes. Her work traverses across time, geography and cultures, and her objects often employ materials and forms traditionally associated with African art and vernacular traditions across the African diaspora.

Leigh’s monumental sculpture “Brick House” was installed on the High Line Plinth, New York, from 2019 to 2021. She received the prestigious Hugo Boss Prize in 2018 and has been the subject of solo exhibitions at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York (2019), the Hammer Museum in Los Angeles (2016), the Studio Museum in Harlem in Marcus Garvey Park in New York (2016), Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in Bentonville, Arkansas (with Chitra Ganesh, 2016), the New Museum, New York (2016), Creative Time and Weeksville Heritage Center, Brooklyn, New York (2014) and The Kitchen, New York (2014). She has been included in group exhibitions at the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York (2019); 10th Berlin Biennale for Contemporary Art, KW Institute for Contemporary Art, Berlin (2018); the New Museum in New York (2017); MoMA PS1 (2015); and Dak’Art 11th Biennale of Contemporary African Art in Dakar, Senegal (2014). Her work is in the collections of The Whitney Museum of American Art and The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, The Art Institute of Chicago and the ICA/Boston, among others.

About the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden

The Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden is the national museum of modern and contemporary art and a leading voice for 21st-century art and culture. Part of the Smithsonian, the Hirshhorn is located prominently on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. Its holdings encompass one of the most important collections of postwar American and European art in the world. The Hirshhorn presents diverse exhibitions and offers an array of public programs on the art of our time—free to all. The Hirshhorn Museum is open daily, 10 a.m.–5:30 p.m. (except Dec. 25). For more information, visit Follow the museum on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and YouTube.

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