Groundbreaking Sculptor Simone Leigh Splits With Hauser and Wirth Mere Months Before Her Venice Pavilion’s Debut

The artist currently has a show at the dealer's Zurich location.

Simone Leigh. Photo by Paul Bruinooge, ©Patrick McMullan.

Sculptor Simone Leigh is parting ways with global mega-gallery Hauser and Wirth after less than two years—just months before she is due to represent the U.S. at the 59th Venice Biennale, which opens in May 2022.

“I love and respect the people I worked with at Hauser and Wirth,” Leigh said in a statement provided by the gallery to Artnet News. “But I do not feel the gallery is the right fit for me in the wider sense. I’m still figuring out what I want from a primary gallery relationship.”

News of Leigh’s departure was first reported by ARTnews. The artist originally joined the gallery in January 2020.

At the time, her star was on the rise after winning the 2018 Hugo Boss Prize, a $100,000 award that comes with a solo show at New York’s Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum. She had also appeared in the 2019 Whitney Biennial and created the inaugural commissionBrick Housefor New York’s High Line Plinth. (Leigh’s previous representation had been with Luhring Augustine in New York since 2016 and David Kordansky gallery in Los Angeles since 2019.)

Known for her exploration of the Black female form, Leigh received a bachelor’s degree at Earlham College in Indiana in 1990, studying art and philosophy. Her breakthrough came in 2010, when she was selected for a Studio Museum in Harlem residency.

Simone Leigh, Las Meninas (2019). Photo by Farzad Owrang, courtesy of the artist and the Cleveland Museum of Art, ©Simone Leigh.

Simone Leigh, Las Meninas (2019). Photo: Farzad Owrang. Courtesy of the artist and the Cleveland Museum of Art. © Simone Leigh.

In October 2020, Leigh was tapped for an even more prestigious honor, as the first Black woman ever chosen to show at the U.S. pavilion in Venice. That month also saw a new artist record set at auction, with the $403,000 sale of the terra-cotta and porcelain sculpture NO FACE (HOUSE), 2020, at Sotheby’s New York, according to the Artnet Price Database.

The forthcoming Venice exhibition is being commissioned by the Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston, which is also organizing her first survey exhibition, slated for 2023. The pavilion will mostly feature new work. The ICA did not respond to inquiries from Artnet News about how Leigh’s change in representation might affect planning for either show.

Simone Leigh,Brick House at the Spur, the last section of the original structure of the High Line to be converted into public space in New York. Photo by Timothy A. Clary/AFP/Getty Images.

Simone Leigh, Brick House (2019), installed at the Spur on the High Line in New York. Photo by Timothy A. Clary/AFP/Getty Images.

Hauser and Wirth is currently staging a solo show of Leigh’s work at its Zürich gallery (through December 4).

“Simone Leigh is a wonderful artist whose unique vision has expanded that of others in the world,” Marc Payot, president of Hauser and Wirth, said in a statement emailed to Artnet News. “We wish her future success and look forward to watching her work evolve and surprise in the years to come.”

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