Home Fashion Simone Leigh and Sonia Boyce Make History at the Venice Biennale

Simone Leigh and Sonia Boyce Make History at the Venice Biennale

Simone Leigh and Sonia Boyce Make History at the Venice Biennale

Earlier this morning, the two Golden Lions at the Venice Biennale–the top honors at the prestigious biannual art event, which opens to the public today–were awarded to Simone Leigh and Sonia Boyce, representing the United States and the United Kingdom respectively. It marks the first time in the Biennale’s 127-year history that the prize has gone to a Black woman artist, with both Leigh and Boyce also being the first Black women to represent their nations in Venice. This is a reflection of the Biennale’s unique year, in which women are outnumbering men for the first-time. It was also a priority for Cecilia Alemani when she assumed the role.

Simone Leigh accepts the Golden Lion at the Venice Biennale earlier today. Photo: Getty Images

Leigh won the Golden Lion for her monumental sculpture Brick House, which greets visitors in the opening gallery of the central exhibition in the Arsenale. (If it looks familiar at all, it’s probably because the 16-foot-tall bronze bust was previously exhibited on the High Line in New York.) This is Leigh’s biggest year at the Biennale. She also represented the U.S. in the American Pavilion. Her exhibition, entitled “Sovereignty”, has been a highlight of 2012. Leigh transformed the Jeffersonian-style building with a striking thatched roof. This was in line with her subversive reflections about the legacy of Western colonialism. A mix of bronzes and ceramics provide an impressive overview of Leigh’s research into the representation of women from Africa in art history. The Biennale jury was led by the Whitney Museum curator Adrienne Edwards, who said that Leigh’s Brick House received the award for being a “rigorously researched, virtuosically realized, and powerfully persuasive monumental sculpture.”


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