Simone Leigh Sculpture Acquired by National Gallery of Art

Friday, August 4, 2023
Simone Leigh Sculpture Acquired by National Gallery of Art

The National Gallery of Art has acquired Sentinel (2022) by Simone Leigh (b. 1967), the first work by the artist to enter the collection. Sentinel is a new edition of the sculpture from the US pavilion at the 2022 Venice Biennale, where Leigh was the first Black woman artist to represent the United States in the exhibition’s 127-year history. Her work was also included in the Biennale’s central exhibition, The Milk of Dreams, for which she was awarded the Golden Lion for Best Participant. The sculpture will be installed in the East Building atrium in September 2023.

More than 16 feet tall, Sentinel towers over the viewer, suggesting a lookout or guard who keeps watch over the world around it. Leigh has created her own formal vocabulary that involves the abstraction of the female body, often representing it as an architecture, as seen in the scale and columnar form of Sentinel. The bronze sculpture creates a long elegant black line, from its fused legs to its attenuated neck. It also features Leigh’s signature formal devices of the faceless figure and vessel-like head. The horizontally placed bowl on top of the figure recalls histories of labor and consumption of the body, while the erasure or elimination of the face suggests the historic anonymity and obscurity of Black women and femmes as well as their withholding of self as a form of protection and self-preservation. Sentinel recalls the influence of African forms in modern art, as its abstracted figure also suggests a nkisi or African power figure believed to contain divine energy and knowledge.

Leigh was born in 1967 in Chicago and received a BA from Earlham College in 1990. Leigh’s monumental sculpture Brick House was the first artist commission for the High Line Plinth in New York. She received the prestigious Hugo Boss Prize in 2018 and has had solo exhibitions at the Guggenheim Museum, Hammer Museum, Studio Museum in Harlem in Marcus Garvey Park, Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art (with Chitra Ganesh), New Museum, Creative Time, and The Kitchen. She has been included in group exhibitions at the Whitney Museum of American Art, 10th Berlin Biennale for Contemporary Art, New Museum, MoMA PS1, and Dak’Art 11th Biennale of Contemporary African Art. Her work is in the collections of the Whitney Museum of American Art, Guggenheim Museum, and the Art Institute of Chicago, ICA/Boston, among others.

Image : Proposed installation of Simone Leigh’s Sentinel (2022) in the National Gallery of Art’s East Building Atrium. Visualization courtesy of the National Gallery of Art, Washington.

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Anna Melnykova, "Palace of Labor (palats praci), architector I. Pretro, 1916", shot with analog Canon camera, 35 mm Fuji film in March 2022.

Anna Melnykova, "Palace of Labor (palats praci), architector I. Pretro, 1916", shot with analog Canon camera, 35 mm Fuji film in March 2022.


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