CBS NEWS reports on a broad range of issues and on occasion turns its attention to visual art. Last Saturday was one of those moments, when Simone Leigh was profiled on CBS This Morning. The network appearance is the latest development in a succession of new opportunities and recognition over the past five years, culminating in the current moment in which Leigh is nearly everywhere in New York City.

“It’s so shocking what is happening to me,” Leigh told CBS. “It’s pretty crazy.”


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Leigh focuses on ceramics. Blending figuration, abstraction, and architectural forms, over the past two decades she’s developed an exceptional practice that centers the black female experience. Accustomed to getting quizzical looks about her chosen medium and subject matter throughout her career, she pushed ahead and didn’t waver. She persisted and responses to her work have changed dramatically.

New York City’s most prominent art institutions are among those paying attention. Her Hugo Boss Prize 2018 exhibition “Loophole of Retreat,” opened earlier this month at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum. She is the first black artist to be selected for the highly regarded prize.

Leigh also received the inaugural commission for the High Line Plinth. Two years in the making, “Brick House,” her monumental 16-foot tall sculpture was installed on the elevated park earlier this month and officially opens to the public in June. Standing 16-feet high, it’s a rare public sculpture representing black women.

Speaking about “Brick House,” to CBS, Leigh said, “I just like the idea of thinking about femininity in a different way, as something solid and enduring rather than always something fragile and weak.”

At Swann Auction Galleries, her work achieved a new artist record when an untitled sculptural vessel from 2006 sold for $93,750* in April. Also last month, the Whitney Museum of America Art announced 300 acquisitions, including “Cupboard VIII” (2018) by Leigh. The 10-foot sculpture is the first work by the artist to enter the museum’s collection.

Yesterday, Leigh was in conversation at Frieze New York. Later this month, Leigh is among the artists invited to participate in the 2019 Whitney Biennial.

The Chicago-born, Brooklyn-based artist says the critical recognition she and other African American artists are finally receiving is not a trend, but rather a correction.

“I’ve never felt like I would be embraced by the art world at-large. Mainstream success I didn’t think was something that would happen to me,” she said to CBS. “I, you know, many years ago dug in my heels that I was gonna do just exactly what I wanted to do. And I never thought that I would be understood. I didn’t think that a lot of people shared my interest. But the art world has changed.” CT


* fees are included in the auction price cited


READ MORE about Simone Leigh’s Hugo Boss Prize and the related exhibition on Culture Type

FIND MORE about the inspirations for Simone Leigh’s “Brick House” project


“The Hugo Boss Prize 2018,” a special slipcase volume from the Guggenheim Museum, features six foldout posters each dedicated to one of the finalists for the prize. The artist’s work is illustrated on one side of the poster and an essay about their work appears on the reverse. The contributing writers include Sharifa Rhodes-Pitts, who writes about Simone Leigh’s work; Ugochukwu-Smooth C. Nzewi, who considers the work of Emeka Ogbo; and Fred Moten, who collaborates on a text about Wu Tsang’s work. Columbia University history Saidiya Hartman is the author of the recently published book “Wayward Lives, Beautiful Experiments: Intimate Histories of Social Upheaval.” Hartman was in conversation with Leigh at Frieze New York yesterday and the professor’s writing about the artist’s work is offered on a broadsheet at the Guggenheim exhibition.


Featured in Guggenheim exhibition: Installation view of “The Hugo Boss Prize 2018: Simone Leigh, Loophole of Retreat,” Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, April 19–Oct. 27, 2019. Shown, from left, SIMONE LEIGH, “Jug,” 2019 (bronze, 214.6 x 126 x 123.8 cm); and “Sentinel,” 2019 (bronze and raffia, 198.1 x 166.4 x 102.9 cm). | Photo by David Heald © 2019 The Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation


Acquired by Whitney Museum: SIMONE LEIGH, “Cupboard VII,” 2018 (stoneware, steel, raffia, and Albany slip, 125 x 120 x 120 inches / 317.5 x 304.8 x 304.8 cm). | Courtesy the artist and Luhring Augustine, New York. © Simone Leigh. Photo by Farzad Owrang


Set artist record at Swann: Lot 171: SIMONE LEIGH (1967- ), “Untitled,” 2006 (salt fired stoneware, approximately 625 mm high / 25 inches high). | Estimate $40,000-$60,000. Sold for $93,750 including fees (Hammer price $75,000) RECORD


Installed on the High Line: SIMONE LEIGH, “Brick House,” High Line Plinth at the Spur, at 30th Street and 10th Avenue, June 2019-September 2020


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