Artist Simone Leigh Will Create a Towering Bust for the High Line’s First Plinth Commission

Leigh’s work, a 16-foot-tall bronze sculpture, will overlook a corner in Chelsea next spring.

Simone Leigh with Brick House. Courtesy of High Line Art. Photo: Photo Timothy Schenck.

Next spring, Manhattan’s elevated outdoor walkway, the High Line, opens its first section solely dedicated to art. Titled the High Line Plinth, the new area—an annex that juts out at the corner of West 30th Street and 10th Avenue—will feature a new commission every 18 months.

The first one, announced today by High Line Art, will be Brick House, a monumental sculpture by American artist Simone Leigh. The sculpture will debut in April 2019 and remain on view through September 2020, gazing down at the city below.

A rendering of Brick House on the High Line. Photo: James Corner Field Operations and Diller Scofidio + Renfro. Courtesy of the City of New York.

Brick House is a 16-foot-tall bronze bust of a black woman. The work, like many of Leigh’s recent sculptures, is jug-shaped, featuring a small head atop a bulky, cylindrical base.

It is the newest—and largest—entry in Leigh’s ongoing “Anatomy of Architecture” series, which juxtaposes the human body with regional architectural tropes from West Africa and the American South. Brick House, in particular, features a number of architectural references, from the clay and wood buildings of the Batammaliba citizens in Togo; to the dome-shaped dwellings built by the Mousgoum people in Chad and Cameroon; to Mammy’s Cupboard, a woman-shaped soul-food restaurant in Mississippi.

“The sculpture’s majestic poise will cast a sense of calm determination over the plaza and buzzing streets below,” says Cecilia Alemani, the director and chief curator of High Line Art, in a statement. “Leigh’s practice conveys a reckoning with contemporary and historical relationships between the body, architecture, and society, as well as with questions as to whose visages and experiences we monumentalize in our public squares.”

Leigh’s assistants at work on Brick House earlier this year. Courtesy of High Line Art. Photo: Timothy Schenck.

According to a post shared today on the artist’s Instagram account, the original structure for Brick House was constructed from 9,000 pounds of clay and will be cast in bronze before being installed on the High Line next year. The name is a reference to the Commodores’ 1977 disco-funk classic.

Leigh was chosen from 12 shortlisted artists announced by High Line Art in early 2017. Her project won out over proposals by artists including Charles Gaines, Haim Steinbach, and Cosima von Bonin.

The commission is the latest in a series of notable recent milestones in the Leigh’s career. In 2016, she joined Luhring Augustine, moving from Tilton Gallery in New York. She was given a John Simon Guggenheim Fellowship that same year, then mounted a solo show at LA’s Hammer Museum in the winter.

Last October, Leigh was awarded the $50,000 Joyce Alexander Wein Artist Prize handed out by the Studio Museum in Harlem and is currently a candidate for another major award—the Guggenheim’s 2018 Hugo Boss Prize. (The winner will be announced in October.)

Leigh opens her first solo show with Luhring Augustine—her biggest New York exhibition to date—next week in New York.


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