Simone Leigh’s towering, 24-foot-high bronze Satellite (2022) has been installed at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, as of December 4, 2023. Visitors can see it near the entry plaza of the Nancy and Rich Kinder Building for modern and contemporary art.
The MFAH is the first U.S. museum to acquire and install this monumental bronze in a permanent display. The first edition of Satellite was the centerpiece of Simone Leigh’s project for the American Pavilion of the 59th Venice Biennale in 2022; Houston’s example is the second edition of this now-iconic work.
Satellite reflects forms found in the traditional D’mba (or nimba) headdresses created by the Baga peoples of Guinea, the ceremonial ladles of the Dan peoples, and vernacular traditions across the African Diaspora. With its evocations of maternity and dignity, the sculpture expresses the artist’s intent to honor the historically undervalued labor – both physical and intellectual – of Black women.
“In order to tell the truth,” Leigh has stated, “you need to invent what might be missing from the archive, to collapse time, to concern yourself with issues of scale, to formally move things around in a way that reveals something more true than fact.”
Installing Satellite at Museum of Fine Arts, Houston
Weighing nearly 6,000 pounds, Satellite is comprised of two elements: a torso with four supports and a disc-like head. After months of careful planning and site preparation, the day-long installation was coordinated by an experienced team of MFAH engineers, art handlers, and a crane operator.
As a first step the lower portion was craned into place onto a reinforced, engineered cement slab and safely fastened with 16 anchors. Once this base was secured, the second component—measuring 10 feet across and weighing 2,980 pounds—was gently lowered into place.
“I am certain that this powerful work will become an iconic presence in front of the Kinder Building,” Gary Tinterow, director and Margaret Alkek Williams chair of the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, said. “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.”
About Simone Leigh
Simone Leigh’s (b. Chicago, 1967) work in video, installation and ceramic and bronze sculpture over the past two decades has explored ideas of race, beauty and community in visual and material culture. Her art addresses a broad range of historical periods, geographies and traditions, with specific references to vernacular and hand-made processes from across the African diaspora.
Simone Leigh’s artworks have been exhibited and are in the permanent collections of the finest art museums in the world.