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The National Gallery of Art Welcomes Simone Leigh's Sentinel

The National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., has announced the acquisition of a new edition of Simone Leigh's monumental sculpture Sentinel (2022). As one of the highlights of the artist's historic U.S. pavilion at the 2022 Venice Biennale, a version of Sentinel (2022)– which stands more than 16 feet tall and depicts a faceless Black woman whose skirt resembles a clay house–will be installed in the East Building atrium in September 2023.

Simone Leigh. Photo by Shaniqwa Jarvis, courtesy of Matthew Marks Gallery, New York.

Simone Leigh is an American artist who first rose to prominence in 2016, on the account of her solo exhibition at the New Museum, New York. Using various media, including sculpture, video, installation, and social practice, her work explores issues of identity, race, beauty, and feminism, with a focus on Black female subjectivity and agency. She draws inspiration from her African-American heritage, as well as her own experiences. Leigh has described her work as auto-ethnographic, meaning she examines her own experiences and assumptions as a source of knowledge and expression.

Sentinel is part of Leigh's Anatomy of Architecture series, which combines human and architectural forms to create hybrid sculptures that evoke the presence and resilience of Black women. In 2018, she received the prestigious Hugo Boss Prize and has had solo and group exhibitions at the Guggenheim Museum, Hammer Museum, Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art (with Chitra Ganesh), New Museum, and Creative Time, to mention but a few. Her work is in the collections of the Whitney Museum of American Art, the 10th Berlin Biennale for Contemporary Art, the New Museum, MoMA PS1, and Dak’Art 11th Biennale of Contemporary African Art among others.

Sentinel was first presented at the High Line in New York City in 2019, where it towered over Manhattan's busy 10th Avenue. In 2022, Leigh created a new edition of the sculpture for her solo exhibition at the U.S. pavilion at the Venice Biennale, where she was the first Black woman artist to represent the United States in the exhibition's 127-year history. She was also awarded the Golden Lion for Best Participant in the Biennale's central exhibition, The Milk of Dreams. The award recognized Leigh's contribution to contemporary art and her ability to create "a powerful synthesis between personal experience and collective history."

The acquisition was made possible through a gift of funds from the Glenstone Foundation.

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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The National Gallery of Art Welcomes Simone Leigh's Sentinel

August 7, 2023

Fredrick Favour

2 min read