Museum of Fine Arts, Houston Acquires and Installs Simone Leigh Sculpture

by Jessica Fuentes December 7, 2023

The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston (MFAH) recently announced its acquisition and installation of Satellite, a significant work by New York-based artist Simone Leigh, who represented the U.S. at the 2022 Venice Biennale.

A photograph of the facade of the U.S. Pavilion at the 2022 Venice Biennale featuring works by Simone Leigh.

Simone Leigh: “Façade,” 2022, thatch, steel, and wood, dimensions variable; “Satellite” (installation view of the United States Pavilion at the 2022 Venice Biennale), 2022, bronze, 24 feet × 10 feet × 7 feet 7 inches (overall). Courtesy the artist and Matthew Marks Gallery. Photo by Timothy Schenck. © Simone Leigh

The first edition of the 24-foot-tall bronze sculpture was featured as part of the artist’s much-lauded presentation, titled Sovereignty, at the Biennale. The large-scale work references a D’mba — a headdress worn by the Baga peoples of the Guinea coast in West Africa during ritual performances. In place of a head, the sculpture is topped by a concave dish, which is reminiscent of a satellite. According to the museum’s press release, the intent of the sculpture is to “honor the historically undervalued labor — both physical and intellectual — of Black women.” The piece purchased by and on view at the MFAH is the second edition of the work.

Gary Tinterow, Director and Margaret Alkek Williams Chair of the MFAH, commented, “I am certain that this powerful work will become an iconic presence in front of the Kinder Building. It is an honor to be the first U.S. museum to acquire Satellite and install it for permanent display, and we are thrilled to have Simone Leigh represented at the Sarofim Campus, where her extraordinary work is in the company of recent monumental works by Ai Wei-Wei, El Anatsui, Carlos Cruz-Diez, Byung Hoon Choi, Ólafur Elíasson and Cristina Iglesias.”

A rendering of Simone Leigh's large-scale sculpture "Satellite" at the entry of the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston.

Simone Leigh, “Satellite,” 2022, installed in front of The Nancy and Rich Kinder Building at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston. Photography by Will Michels, site rendering by Shaun Dorris.

The sculpture, which weighs nearly 6,000 pounds, was installed on Monday, December 4, near the entry of the Nancy and Rich Kinder Building. The MFAH explained that it has taken months of planning to ensure a safe installation. Coordinated by a team of MFAH engineers, art handlers, and a crane operator, the torso section of the work was first placed onto a reinforced, engineered cement slab and fastened with 16 anchors. After securing the base, the second component was lowered into place.

The museum’s purchase of the sculpture was funded by its Caroline Wiess Law Accessions Endowment Fund.

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