Featuring | NYFA Hall of Fame Honoree Sanford Biggers

Featuring | NYFA Hall of Fame Honoree Sanford Biggers

On April 11, 2019, Biggers (Fellow in Performance/Multidisciplinary ’05) will be inducted into NYFA’s Hall of Fame alongside Karl Kellner and Min Jin Lee

The New York Foundation for the Arts (NYFA) will celebrate the induction of three arts luminaries into its Hall of Fame during its annual benefit on Thursday, April 11, 2019 at Capitale, 130 Bowery, New York, NY 10013. The event recognizes visual, literary, and performing artists who have received NYSCA/NYFA Artist Fellowships and have had a profound impact on the arts through their creative work, as well as patrons of the arts who have championed the value of the arts in the world around us. 

Among the honorees is Sanford Biggers, a visual artist who received a NYSCA/NYFA Artist Fellowship in Performance/Multidisciplinary in 2005. Biggers’ work is an interplay of narrative, perspective, and history that speaks to current social, political, and economic happenings while also examining the contexts that bore them. His diverse practice positions him as a collaborator with the past through explorations of often overlooked cultural and political narratives from American history. 

Working with antique quilts that echo rumors of their use as signposts on the Underground Railroad, Biggers engages these legends and contributes to this narrative by drawing and painting directly onto them. In response to ongoing occurrences of police brutality against black Americans, Biggers’ BAM series is composed of bronze sculptures recast from fragments of wooden African statues that have been anonymized through dipping in wax and then ballistically ‘resculpted.’ Following a residency as a 2017 American Academy Fellow in Rome, Biggers began working in marble. Drawing on and playing with the tradition of working in this medium, he creates hybridized forms that transpose, combine, and juxtapose classical and historical subjects to create alternative meanings and produce what he calls “future ethnographies.”


Seph Rodney, an editor and writer at Hyperallergic, wrote that Biggers’ 2017 Selah exhibition “recognizes that being black in the United States is a syncretic state of being, that the African and the American have become lodged together in ways that are at times brilliant, grandiose, and also violent and inscrutable.” In an ARTnews review from 2000, Tom Finkelpearl, the then-director of MoMA P.S.1′s studio program and now-commissioner of the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs, was quoted as saying: “Biggers is always juggling cultural signs” and has “an incredible formal sense.” A 2018 New Yorker profile by Vinson Cunningham highlighted the subtlety and humor in Biggers’ eclectic body of work, noting that the artist “strives for a balance between formal play and an interest in race and history that manages to be at once sincere and ironic.” 

Biggers has had solo exhibitions at the Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit, Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art, and the Brooklyn Museum, with work in group exhibitions at the Menil Collection, Tate Modern, and The Metropolitan Museum of Art. His work is currently on view as part of the traveling exhibition Artists as Innovators: Celebrating Three Decades of New York State Council on the Arts/New York Foundation for the Arts Fellowships, and is held in the public art collections of the Museum of Modern Art, Walker Art Center, and the National Museum of African American History and Culture, among others.

Biggers is also the creative director of Moon Medicin, a multimedia concept band that straddles visual art and music with performances staged against a backdrop of curated sound effects and video, that will perform at the Kennedy Center in Washington D.C. this April. He lives and works in New York City.

All tickets to NYFA’s 2019 Hall of Fame Benefit come with a limited-edition signed print by Sanford Biggers. Learn more about NYFA’s Hall of Benefit here. Sign up for NYFA’s bi-weekly newsletter, NYFA News, to receive announcements about future NYFA events and programs.

Images: Sanford Biggers (Fellow in Performance/Multidisciplinary ‘05), Photo Credit: Alex Freund, and Sanford Biggers, Eclipse, 2006, painted wood, 2 pieces, ©Sanford Biggers, Courtesy of the artist and Marianne Boesky Gallery

Amy Aronoff
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