Simone Leigh at the Visiting Artists Program

27 March 2018

The Visiting Artists Program at The Art Institute of Chicago

A beacon of the arts and education on the Cultural Mile, The Art Institute of Chicago hosts artists from around the world through their Visiting Artists Program. The program began when the museum was founded in 1868 and was later formalized after a donation in 1951. During its 150 year tenure, the program has continued its free public forum structure, welcoming residents, students and aspiring artists from the 1000M neighborhood and greater Chicagoland area to the Rubloff Theater at the Art Institute.

Just as their slogan states: “Visiting Minds. Lasting Influence,” the Visiting Artists Program is a platform for innovative ideas that inspire Chicago’s next generation of artist. Notable past visiting artists include Jeff Koons, Theaster Gates, and Toyo Ito. We attended Simone Leigh’s Visiting Artist Lecture on March 20 to give you a taste of all the 1000M neighborhood has to offer.

View of “Simone Leigh,” 2015, Kentucky Museum of Art and Craft, Kentucky.
Installation view of “Simone Leigh,” 2015, Kentucky Museum of Art and Craft, Kentucky.

Simone Leigh

As a Chicago native and Kenwood Academy alum, Leigh spent much time on the Cultural Mile and at the Art Institute. The museum’s rich collection shaped her early perspectives on art and art history, helping develop her artistic sensibility. Today she is based out of New York where she is represented by the Luhring Augustine gallery. Her object-based exploration of black female subjectivity has been featured, recognized and awarded by organizations throughout the world including The New Museum, The Studio Museum and A Blade of Grass.

Much of Leigh’s work is in response to the colonial reenactment performed at the 1931 Paris Exposition. Leigh suggests that while masquerading as a cultural exchange, the migrating architecture of the Paris Exposition reified French colonialism. To provide new representation and perspectives on this history and to explore truth, she merges anatomy and architecture in her sculptures.

Simone Leigh by Paul Mpagi Sepuya
Simone Leigh by Paul Mpagi Sepuya

Upcoming Visiting Artist Lectures

Nari Ward and Maggie Nelson will conclude this season of the Art Institute’s Visiting Artists Program. Sculptor and and champion of found objects, Nari Ward will join the forum on Wednesday, April 18th. Author and poet, Maggie Nelson will join the dialogue on Monday, April 30th.

For more information on the series, or to download lecture podcasts, visit