Simone Leigh:
The Waiting Room


“Simone Leigh: The Waiting Room” will mark a new chapter in artist Simone Leigh’s ongoing exploration of black subjectivities, particularly those of women.

Cover Image:

Simone Leigh, Landscape, from the series Anatomy of Architecture, 2016. Digital collage. Courtesy the artist

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In her work, Leigh (b. 1968, Chicago, IL) demands that the concerns, roles, and rights of women of color be recognized as central, rather than pushed to the margins. For her exhibition and residency at the New Museum, the artist considers the possibilities of disobedience, desire, and self-determination as they manifest in resistance to an imposed state of deferral and debasement. Whereas discourses of patience, pragmatism, and austerity often underscore political debates surrounding the failures of public health care and related conditions, Leigh finds inspiration in parallel histories of urgency, agency, and intervention within social movements and black communities, past and present. Troubling the notion of separate narratives, she implicates violent, institutionalized control and indifference as the conditions under which forms of self care and social care can become radical or alternative.

Focusing specifically on an expanded notion of medicine, “The Waiting Room” references a wide range of care environments and opportunities—from herbalist apothecaries and muthi [medicine] markets in Durban, South Africa, to meditation rooms and movement studios—and involves a variety of public and private workshops and healing treatments that the artist refers to as “care sessions.” Blurring the distinction between bodily and spiritual health, or between wellness and happiness—and, in doing so, countering the perception of holistic care as a luxury good—Leigh has convened practitioners who view social justice as integral to their work. The project also takes into account a history of social inequalities that have necessitated community-organized care, traditionally provided by women, from the United Order of Tents, a secret society of nurses that has been active since the time of the Underground Railroad, to volunteers in the Black Panther Party’s police-embattled clinics that were active from the 1960s to the 1980s. “The Waiting Room” suggests that creating a space for wellness may require both the making of a sanctuary and an act of disobedience against the systemic enactment and repudiation of black pain.

This project developed out of an earlier iteration of Leigh’s socially engaged work “Free People’s Medical Clinic” (2014), organized by Creative Time, which provided free treatments and workshops over the course of four weekends in the former Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn, home of Dr. Josephine English, the first black ob-gyn in the state of New York. At the New Museum, Leigh continues her involvement with professionals in the field of holistic health, while creating a new installation and a private, “underground” series of intimate, in-depth workshops and classes for community partners to take place while the Museum is closed to the public. Additionally, a series of talks, performances, and events conceptualized as medicinal dialogues on aging, disobedience, healing performances, and toxicity will be offered throughout Leigh’s residency.

“The Waiting Room” inaugurates the Department of Education and Public Engagement’s annual R&D Summers, a research and development residency and exhibition program that will foreground the New Museum’s year-round commitment to community partnerships and to public dialogue at the intersection of art and social justice. Each R&D Summer will take the form of a residency and an exhibition.

The exhibition is curated by Johanna Burton, Keith Haring Director and Curator of Education and Public Engagement; Shaun Leonardo, Manager of School, Youth, and Community Programs; and Emily Mello, Associate Director of Education. The exhibition is accompanied by a broadsheet designed by Nontsikelelo Mutiti.

Simone Leigh was born in Chicago in 1968 and lives and works in New York. Her recent and upcoming solo presentations include “Hammer Projects: Simone Leigh,” the Hammer Museum, Los Angeles (2016); “Simone Leigh: I ran to the rock to hide my face the rock cried out no hiding place,” the Kansas City Art Institute (2016); “Free People’s Medical Clinic,” created with Creative Time (2014); “Gone South,” the Atlanta Contemporary Art Center (2014); and “You Don’t Know Where Her Mouth Has Been,” the Kitchen, New York (2012). In 2016, Leigh received A Blade of Grass Fellowship, a John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation Fellowship, and the Herb Alpert Award in the Arts. She has also received grants and awards from the Louis Comfort Tiffany Foundation, Creative Capital, the Lower Manhattan Cultural Council, the Joan Mitchell Foundation, Art Matters, and the New York Foundation for the Arts. Leigh was an artist in residence at the Studio Museum in Harlem from 2010 to 2011 and the Bronx Museum’s Artist in the Marketplace (AIM) program in 2009. She was a facilitator of the International Art Programme at the Centre for Contemporary Art in Lagos, Nigeria, in 2012 and at the Àsìkò School, Dakar, Senegal, in 2013.


All care sessions will be open to the public free of charge and will take place on the Fifth Floor. Unless otherwise noted, participants must sign up in the New Museum Lobby on the day of the event to attend a session. Space is limited, and admission is available on a first-come, first-served basis.

Guided Meditation for Black Lives Matter
Saturdays: July 23, July 30, August 6, August 13, August 20, August 27, September 3, September 10, September 17
RSVP is required by email to prior to each session.

Afrocentering with Aimee Meredith Cox
Saturdays: June 25, July 23, August 6, August 27, September 17, 11:30 AM–12:30 PM
Thursdays: July 14, July 28, August 18, August 25, 7–8:30 PM

Massage with Malik K. Bellamy
Sundays: June 26, July 3, July 24, August 7, September 4, September 18, 1–4 PM

Community Acupuncture with Julia Bennett
Thursdays: July 7, August 11, September 8, 6–9 PM
Saturdays: July 16, August 13, September 10, 4–6 PM

Learning How to Heal Yourself with Plants: Herbalism Workshops with Karen Rose
Saturdays: July 9, July 16, July 23, July 30, August 6, August 13, 2–3 PM


Please check the event calendar for more information, including ticket prices.

Rashida Bumbray: Motherless Child Set
Thursday June 23, 5–7 PM
Curator and choreographer Rashida Bumbray and guests will perform a cycle of black folk songs to celebrate the opening of “Simone Leigh: The Waiting Room.” This event is free with Museum admission.

Chitra Ganesh: On Disobedience
Thursday June 30, 7 PM
For this lecture, artist Chitra Ganesh will explore the notion of disobedience as it has been mobilized in political protest and social movements outside of the United States.

Learning How to Heal Yourself with Plants: Herbalism Gallery Talk with Karen Rose
Thursday July 21, 7 PM
A specialist in Eastern and Western herbal medicine, Karen Rose will discuss how the energies of plants can be harnessed to improve well-being.

María Magdalena Campos-Pons: Remedios: Performance Rituals as Healing
Saturday July 23, 3 PM
In this performance, artist María Magdalena Campos-Pons will negotiate narratives of pain, loss, and resilience through a meditation on survival, in which she will reimagine herself in a time of societal and geopolitical transitions.

Lorraine O’Grady: Ask Me Anything About Aging
Thursday August 4, 7 PM
Considering the benefits of intergenerational word-of-mouth information and strategy sharing among women, artist Lorraine O’Grady will field questions about aging from the audience joining her for this intimate conversation.

Black Women Artists for Black Lives Matter
Thursday September 1, 4:30–8:30 PM
On Sunday, July 10, Simone Leigh convened over one hundred black women artists to form a collective force underground in response to the continued inhumane institutionalized violence against black lives. Known as Black Women Artists for Black Lives Matter (BWA for BLM), the group will hold a public event in solidarity with Black Lives Matter, featuring collectively organized healing workshops, performances, digital works, participatory exchanges, displays, and the distribution of materials throughout the Museum.

Vanessa Agard-Jones: On Toxicity
Saturday September 10, 3 PM
Anthropologist Vanessa Agard-Jones will discuss her forthcoming book,Body Burdens: Toxic Endurance and Decolonial Desire in the French Atlantic, which considers pesticides, sexual politics, and postcoloniality in Martinique.


The Waiting Room Underground will provide a safe space for in-depth engagements that will occur out of the public view, offering intimate classes to ongoing and newly affiliated New Museum partners.

Home Economics
Home Economics is a series of courses geared toward creating an arsenal of skills to sharpen the critical thinking, self-awareness, and strategic planning of young black women in New York. The group will work with master herbalist Karen Rose, renowned musician Kaoru Watanabe, and Afrocentering creator Aimee Meredith Cox. Home Economics is supported by Simone Leigh’s A Blade of Grass Fellowship for Socially Engaged Art.

Taiko Drumming
Each week, eight young adults from the Hetrick-Martin Institute, an organization that provides services for LGBTQ youth and is an ongoing partner of the New Museum, will meet to make drums and learn taiko drumming with musician Kaoru Watanabe.

Waiting Room Apprentices
Throughout the course of the exhibition, youth involved in the New Museum Teen Apprentice Program will act as Waiting Room Apprentices. Working closely with Cox, Rose, and New Museum staff, the teens will provide assistance with exhibition programs and participate in private workshops as part of a six-week paid summer internship program that engages teens in learning about contemporary art while helping them develop career skills.

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“Simone Leigh: The Waiting Room” is made possible by support provided by the Shelley & Donald Rubin Foundation and the Toby Devan Lewis Emerging Artists Exhibitions Fund.

Artist commissions at the New Museum are generously supported by the Neeson / Edlis Artist Commissions Fund. Artist residencies are made possible, in part, by Laurie Wolfert.

Further exhibition support is provided by public funds from the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Andrew Cuomo and the New York State Legislature, and from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council.

Endowment support is provided by the Rockefeller Brothers Fund, the Skadden, Arps Education Programs Fund, and the William Randolph Hearst Endowed Fund for Education Programs at the New Museum.

Special thanks to A Blade of Grass.

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