Less than two years after signing for representation there, Simone Leigh has left Hauser & Wirth, a mega-gallery with more than 15 locations worldwide.
“I love and respect the people I worked with at Hauser & Wirth,” Leigh said in a statement. “But I do not feel that the gallery suits me in a broader sense. I am still figuring out what I want from a primary gallery relationship.”
The news comes as Leigh prepares to represent the United States at the Venice Biennale 2022 in Italy, an event that opens in May. It is rare for artists to leave the world’s largest galleries in general, and even rarer for artists to do so when they have a major project such as a retrospective or a monumental commission on the way. In 2020, when Leigh joined Hauser & Wirth, she divorced New York’s Luhring Augustine and Los Angeles’ David Kordansky Gallery, the latter of which had only represented her for six months (Luhring Augustine began showing her in 2016).
“Simone Leigh is a wonderful artist whose unique vision has expanded the world of others,” said Marc Payot, President of Hauser & Wirth, in a statement. “We wish her future success and look forward to seeing her work develop and surprise in the years to come.”
Leigh is known for its elegant sculptures centering black women and stories of endurance related to them. Many times, Leigh seems to hide her motives in an air of mystery by representing her female figures without eyes. By making prominent use of objects such as cowrie shells and artistic styles derived from West and South African cultures, Leigh alludes to a number of historical figures and events, including the formation of the United Order of Tents, a secret society founded in 1867 by two formerly enslaved people summoning black female nurses.
At Hauser & Wirth’s gallery in Zurich, Leigh currently has a solo show running through December 4th. Included in that show are works that make use of raffia, which partially embed some of her characters in what the artist has said is a reference to marronage, the term for the act of resistance in which southern slave laborers kept hidden.
Leigh’s departure from Hauser & Wirth comes at a time when her works of art are particularly well-known, with recordings in highly respected exhibitions such as the Okwui Enwezor-curated study “Grief and Grievance: Art and Mourning in America,” which opened earlier this year. at the New Museum in New York. This month, her work was shown at the 2021 edition of the Prospect New Orleans Triennial; next month, her art will appear in the show “Black American Portraits” at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. In addition to her Venice Biennale project, which makes her the first black woman ever to represent the United States at the biennial, Leigh is working on a research show to open in 2023 at the Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston, the pavilion’s organizing institution.