Not in Venice? Catch Works From Simone Leigh's Crowd-Favorite Pavilion When It Travels to Museums Across the U.S. Starting in 2023 (2024)

Simone Leigh’s U.S. pavilion is drawing lines around the courtyard during this week’s Venice Biennale preview. But those who don’t manage to catch the show-stopping presentation in the Giardini will have several other chances.

The presentation, which features 11 new works, will form the basis of Leigh’s first-ever survey exhibition, at the Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston, which commissioned the pavilion, next March. It will then embark on a national tour with a stop at the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden in Washington, D.C., in the fall and winter of 2023 and 2024, followed by a joint presentation at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art and the city’s California African American Museum in spring and summer 2024.

The ICA Boston’s chief curator, Eva Respini, who organized the Venice pavilion, will curate the traveling show. It spans 20 years of Leigh’s practice.

Not in Venice? Catch Works From Simone Leigh's Crowd-Favorite Pavilion When It Travels to Museums Across the U.S. Starting in 2023 (1)

Simone Leigh,Last Garment (2022). Courtesy the artist and Matthew Marks Gallery. Photo by Timothy Schenck. © Simone Leigh.

For Venice, Leigh created a sweeping body of work about the Black female subject that draws on references ranging from ritual performances of the Baja peoples in Guinea to early Black American material culture from the Edgefield District in South Carolina and the 1931 Paris Colonial Exposition.

On view is a towering bronze female figure with a disc in place of a head (whichbarely arrived in time for the opening); a statue of a washerwoman at work that harkens back to stereotypical 19th-century postcards used to promote tourism in Jamaica; and the artist’s first ever portrait, of the writerSharifa Rhodes-Pitts.

What is perhaps the show’s best and most memorable work will not travel, however. Leigh transformed the U.S. pavilion’s facade—a neoclassical Jeffersonian brick building with white columns—by covering it withthatch roofing that resembles a 1930s West African palace and encircling it with wooden poles.

The installation—titled, appropriately, Facade—draws on the 1931 Paris Colonial Exposition, a six-month event in which Western nations touted their colonial empires by constructing replicas of far-flung local architecture for public consumption. (It may not be a stretch to consider the work as a sly critique of the Biennale itself, another world fair that offers up bite-size visions of national cultures.)

The pavilion, titled “Sovereignty,” also presents a 26-minute film by Leigh andMadeleine Hunt-Ehrlich that traces the creation of the works on view, with close-cropped shots of the artist crimping, braiding, and stepping on clay as if it were grapes being turned into wine. The film ends with a long shot of Leigh burning apapier-mâché and raffia version of a ceramic work,Anonymous, on view in an earlier gallery. That work—which depicts the unidentified Black female subject of a racist 1882 souvenir photograph by a white photographer—was reportedly so difficult for Leigh to live with in the studio that the burning of its twin served as a kind of cathartic distancing ritual.

The tight show is so full of historical and cultural references—about visible and invisible labor; how Black women have been depicted and have depicted themselves; European American appropriation of African culture and the endurance of African iconography in the diaspora—that it might require a full book to explain them all. Fortunately, the forthcoming museum exhibition will be accompanied by a major monograph.

“In order to tell the truth,” Leigh said in a statement, “you need to invent what might be missing from the archive, to collapse time, to concern yourself with issues of scale, to formally move things around in a way that reveals something more true than fact.”

See more images of “Simone Leigh: Sovereignty” below.

Not in Venice? Catch Works From Simone Leigh's Crowd-Favorite Pavilion When It Travels to Museums Across the U.S. Starting in 2023 (2)

Simone Leigh, Sharifa(detail) (2022). Courtesy the artist and Matthew Marks Gallery. Photo by Timothy Schenck. © Simone Leigh

Not in Venice? Catch Works From Simone Leigh's Crowd-Favorite Pavilion When It Travels to Museums Across the U.S. Starting in 2023 (3)

Simone Leigh,Sentinel (2022). Courtesy the artist and Matthew Marks Gallery.
Photo by Timothy Schenck. © Simone Leigh.

Not in Venice? Catch Works From Simone Leigh's Crowd-Favorite Pavilion When It Travels to Museums Across the U.S. Starting in 2023 (4)

Simone Leigh Sphinx (2022). Courtesy the artist and Matthew Marks Gallery. Photo by Timothy Schenck. © Simone Leigh.

Not in Venice? Catch Works From Simone Leigh's Crowd-Favorite Pavilion When It Travels to Museums Across the U.S. Starting in 2023 (5)

Simone Leigh, Cupboard (2022). Courtesy the artist and Matthew Marks Gallery. Photo by Timothy Schenck. © Simone Leigh.

Not in Venice? Catch Works From Simone Leigh's Crowd-Favorite Pavilion When It Travels to Museums Across the U.S. Starting in 2023 (6)

Simone Leigh, Martinique (2022). Courtesy the artist and Matthew Marks Gallery. Photo by Timothy Schenck. © Simone Leigh.

Not in Venice? Catch Works From Simone Leigh's Crowd-Favorite Pavilion When It Travels to Museums Across the U.S. Starting in 2023 (7)

Installation view, “Simone Leigh: Sovereignty.” Courtesy the artist and Matthew Marks Gallery. Photo by Timothy Schenck. © Simone Leigh.

Not in Venice? Catch Works From Simone Leigh's Crowd-Favorite Pavilion When It Travels to Museums Across the U.S. Starting in 2023 (8)

Simone Leigh, Jug(2022). Courtesy the artist and Matthew Marks Gallery. Photo by Timothy Schenck. © Simone Leigh.

Not in Venice? Catch Works From Simone Leigh's Crowd-Favorite Pavilion When It Travels to Museums Across the U.S. Starting in 2023 (9)

Simone Leigh,Last Garment (2022). Courtesy the artist and Matthew Marks Gallery. Photo by Timothy Schenck. © Simone Leigh.

Not in Venice? Catch Works From Simone Leigh's Crowd-Favorite Pavilion When It Travels to Museums Across the U.S. Starting in 2023 (10)

Simone Leigh,Anonymous(detail) (2022). Courtesy the artist and Matthew Marks Gallery. Photo by Timothy Schenck © Simone Leigh.

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Not in Venice? Catch Works From Simone Leigh's Crowd-Favorite Pavilion When It Travels to Museums Across the U.S. Starting in 2023 (2024)

FAQs

How does Simone Leigh describe her work? ›

Leigh describes her work as auto-ethnographic, and her salt-glazed ceramic and bronze sculptures often employ forms traditionally associated with African art. Her performance-influenced installations create spaces where historical precedent and self-determination commingle.

What is the theme of the Venice Biennale 2024? ›

Foreigners Everywhere. Stranieri Ovunque - Foreigners Everywhere is the title and theme of the 60th International Art Exhibition of La Biennale di Venezia 2024, curated by Adriano Pedrosa. The International Exhibition takes place in the Central Pavilion (Giardini) and in the Arsenale.

What not to miss at Venice Biennale? ›

  • Christoph Büchel, Monte di Pietà, Fondazione Prada Venice, April 20 to November 24, 2024. ...
  • Re-stor(y)ing Oceania. ...
  • Julie Mehretu. ...
  • The Giorgio Cini Foundation's program on the Island of San Giorgio. ...
  • Nebula, In Between Art Film Foundation, Ospedaletto Complex, April 17 to November 24, 2024.
Apr 14, 2024

Who is the American artist at the Venice Biennale? ›

Jeffrey Gibson's history-making turn at the Venice Biennale brings the gay and Native American artist center stage with works of struggle and freedom. Reporting from Hudson, New York. People in Venice might hear the jingle dress dancers before they see them.

Who is Simone inspired by? ›

Nabiyah Be's Simone is a mixture of disco pioneers like Donna Summers, Diana Ross, and Chaka Khan. Be said she was given "200-plus" pages of "disco research" when she signed on as Simone Jackson, Daisy's best friend and a trailblazing star in New York City's club scene.

What materials does Simone Leigh use? ›

Clay forms the basis of most of Leigh's artworks, including her bronze sculptures, which are first modeled in clay.

What is the theme of the Venice Biennale 2025? ›

Curator Carlo Ratti and president of the Venice Architecture Biennale Pietrangelo Buttafuoco have announced Intelligens Natural Artificial Collective as the title and theme of the event's nineteenth edition.

Who won the Venice Biennale in 2024? ›

Archie Moore: winner of the Golden Lion at the 60th Venice Biennale.

What is happening in Venice in April 2024? ›

The 60th International Art Exhibition runs from Saturday 20 April to Sunday 24 November, 2024 (pre-opening on April 17, 18 and 19), curated by Adriano Pedrosa.

What is the theme of the Venice Biennale 2013? ›

THE CHALLENGE FACING every curator in charge of the Venice Biennale before starting his selection process is to find a theme that will connect the various works of art. This year, the 2013 curator, Massimiliano Gioni, from the New Museum in New York, chose The Encyclopedic Palace as the main theme.

What is the theme of Venice Biennale 2010? ›

The theme is 'people meet in architecture'; open-ended and a nebulous conceit, but also one tipped toward exploring architecture's public role.

Who is the black female artist at the Venice Biennale? ›

Most of the buildings looked the same as in past years. But on opening day, Simone Leigh rendered the U.S. Pavilion unrecognizable. She is the first Black woman to be awarded the Biennale commission, and she made over the pavilion to reflect just that.

Who is the American artist at the Venice Biennale 2024? ›

Indigenous contemporary artist Jeffrey Gibson's exhibition, the space in which to place me, is on view at the U.S. Pavilion at the Venice Biennale from April 20th – November 24, 2024.

What is the biggest art Biennale in the world? ›

The Venice Biennale (/ˌbiːɛˈnɑːleɪ, -li/; Italian: La Biennale di Venezia) is an international cultural exhibition hosted annually in Venice, Italy by the Biennale Foundation. The biennale has been organised every year since 1895, which makes it the oldest of its kind.

What is the theme of the Venice art Biennale? ›

The International Exhibition By Adriano Pedrosa

Curator Adriano Pedrosa orchestrates the central exhibition of the Biennale, "Stranieri Ovunque," which features works from 331 artists focusing on themes of migration and identity.

What to see in Venice during Biennale 2024? ›

A Palazzo for Immigrants at Palazzo Cavalli-Franchetti, Fondation Louis Vuitton is exhibiting Ernest Pignon-Ernest, the Chanakya Foundation is staging Cosmic Garden a show of textile works made in India, the feminist show Breasts is opening at APC Palazzo Franchetti and Ewa Juszkiewicz's solo show is at Palazzo Cavanis ...

What is the significance of the Venice Biennale? ›

The Art Biennale (La Biennale d'Arte di Venezia) is one of the world's largest and most important contemporary visual art exhibitions. So-called because it is held biannually, it is the original biennale on which others in the world have been modeled.

What is the theme of the 59th Venice Biennale? ›

The Exhibition The Milk of Dreams takes Leonora Carrington's otherworldly creatures, along with other figures of transformation, as companions on an imaginary journey through the metamorphoses of bodies and definitions of the human.

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