THE 2018 HUGO BOSS PRIZE has been awarded to Simone Leigh. Best known for her ceramic works, Leigh’s practice examines black female subjectivity, black feminist discourse, and the history of labor and resistance. Her selection was announced last night at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York. The Hugo Boss Prize recognizes the significant and influential achievement of contemporary artists and includes $100,000 and a solo exhibition at the museum.

Leigh is the twelfth artist and first person of African descent to win the biennial prize, which is administered by the Guggenheim Foundation and funded by Hugo Boss, the German fashion label. She was chosen by an international jury of curators, museum directors, and an art magazine editor, from among six shortlisted finalists: Bouchra Khalili, Teresa Margolles, Emeka Ogboh, Frances Stark, and Wu Tsang.

In its statement about Leigh’s selection, the jury said “her singular vision unifies a body of work in sculpture, video, performance, and social projects that deftly joins theory, practice, and form in a tightly coherent oeuvre characterized by a close engagement with the body, the symbolic activation of material, and narrative references to African diasporic histories.”

The jury also applauded her mentorship of the next generation of female artists and added: “We are particularly compelled by Leigh’s longstanding and unwavering commitment to addressing black women as both the subject of and audience for her work, a focus which imagines a recalibration of the outmoded power structures that shape contemporary society. This emphasis on centering the black female experience is profoundly inspiring in its simultaneous radicality and necessity.”

“We are particularly compelled by Leigh’s longstanding and unwavering commitment to addressing black women as both the subject of and audience for her work, a focus which imagines a recalibration of the outmoded power structures that shape contemporary society.” — Hugo Boss Prize Jury

This short teaser about Simone Leigh’s practice features a quote from the artist: “I’ve been thinking about the labor of black women, what forms of knowledge they carry, and what kinds of labor they are involved in that’s not valued.” | Video by Guggenheim Museum


LEIGH LIVES AND WORKS in Brooklyn. For more than 25 years, she has remained steadfast in her practice, drawing on her training in American ceramics, interest in ancient African pottery and dual degrees in art and philosophy. Despite her commitment and insightful approach to her subject and medium, expanding the possibilities of ceramics, widespread recognition and plum opportunities eluded her until recently. The Hugo Boss Prize is the latest accolade bestowed upon the artist over the past few years.

After working on a major project with Creative Time in Brooklyn in 2014, Leigh had a transformative year in 2016. She presented solo exhibitions at the New Museum in New York and the Hammer Museum in Los Angeles. She was also awarded a John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation Fellowship and an Anonymous Was A Woman Award in sculpture. In addition, she obtained new representation in 2016, joining Luhring Augustine gallery in New York.

Last year, she won the Studio Museum in Harlem’s 2017 Joyce Alexander Wein Artist Prize. A solo exhibition of her work is currently on view at Luhring Augustine through Oct. 20. She also received the first commission for the High Line Plinth where her monumental sculpture, “Brick House,” will debut in April 2019.

Leigh’s Hugo Boss Prize exhibition is scheduled to open in April 2019, too. It will be groundbreaking. In addition to Leigh being the first black person to win the prize, her solo show is opening in the wake of “Grey Area,” Julie Mehretu’s commissioned presentation in 2010, and Carrie Mae Weems’s historic career-spanning exhibition in 2014. “Carrie Mae Weems: Three Decades of Photography and Video” was the first-ever retrospective of a black female artist presented at the Guggenheim. CT


TOP IMAGE: Oct. 18, 2018 – Simone Leigh accepts the 2018 Hugo Boss Prize. From left, Mark Langer, chairman and CEO of Hugo Boss; Leigh; and Richard Armstrong, director of the Guggenheim Museum and Foundation. | Photo via Guggenheim Museum on Twitter


READ MORE about Simone Leigh on her website


The Guggenheim Museum is publishing a 2018 Hugo Boss Prize catalog produced in a unique format. The slipcased volume includes six foldout posters (one for each nominated artist, as well as Simone Leigh). Each poster features an artwork on one side and an essay about the artist’s work on the reverse. The text’s are written by Diana Nawi, Ugochukwu-Smooth C. Nzewi, Taiyana Pimentel, Sharifa Rhodes-Pitts, Frances Stark and an anonymous associate, and Fred Moten, boychild, and Wu Tsang. Leigh contributed to “Fired Up! Ready to Go!: Finding Beauty, Demanding Equity: An African American Life in Art. The Collections of Peggy Cooper Cafritz,” which was published earlier this year. Cafritz, the late Washington, D.C., collector, was an early supporter of Leigh and her work.


Installation view of Simone Leigh exhibition at Luhring Augustine, New York, Sept. 8 – Oct. 20, 2018. | via Luhring Augustine
Luhring Augustine, New York


SIMONE LEIGH, Detail of “Cupboard VIII,” 2018 (stoneware, steel, raffia, Albany slip, 125 x 120 inches / 317.5 x 304.8 cm). | via Luhring Augustine


SIMONE LEIGH, Detail of “Trophallaxis,” 2008–17 (terracotta, porcelain, epoxy, graphite, gold and platinum glazes, and antennas, dimensions variable). | © Simone Leigh; Courtesy the artist and Luhring Augustine, New York


In Progress: Simone Leigh assesses her towering “Brick House” sculpture (2018). | Photo by Timothy Schenck, Courtesy Friends of the High Line


Do you enjoy and value Culture Type? Please consider supporting its ongoing production by making a donation. Culture Type is an independent editorial project that requires countless hours and expense to research, report, write, and produce. To help sustain it, make a one-time donation or sign up for a recurring monthly contribution. It only takes a minute. Many Thanks for Your Support.