Barbara Chase-Riboud, a sculptor who has seen a new level of interest following two survey exhibitions and a memoir last year, has joined Hauser & Wirth, one of the world’s biggest galleries, with more than a dozen locations across the globe.
Chase-Riboud will be the featured artist in the inaugural exhibition at Hauser & Wirth’s latest space, in New York’s SoHo neighborhood, which is expected to open in October. That month also marks the end of a small show at the Museum of Modern Art that pairs the work of Chase-Riboud with sculptures by Alberto Giacometti.
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It is the latest in a series of high-profile exhibitions devoted to Chase-Riboud, who last year had surveys at the Serpentine Galleries in London and the Pulitzer Arts Foundation in St. Louis.
“Last year, I saw the Serpentine Galleries show, which really blew me away,” Marc Payot, president of Hauser & Wirth, told ARTnews. “For me, she is such a radical sculptor in terms of how she uses the different materials, from silk to metal to bronze. I see her in the same level as [Louise] Bourgeois or Eva Hesse or Phyllida Barlow, these very radical female women sculptors.”
Payot added, “Unfortunately, she has really has not received the recognition she has deserved. Now, it is getting better.”
For decades, Chase-Riboud has been sculpting abstractions from bronze, fiber, and other elements that often allude to various historical figures, from Malcolm X to Cleopatra. Fashioning her materials in ways that appear to pit hardness against softness, Chase-Riboud has termed her most famous works “monuments,” referring to how they immortalize facets of these people’s personae. Her sculptures draw equally on modernism and styles derived from a spread of African cultures.
Beyond her sculptures, Chase-Riboud has also written prolifically, her books including Sally Hemings, a 1979 novel that sought to inhabit the psychology of the enslaved woman who may have born some of Thomas Jefferson’s children. The book generated controversy on its release, although it is now out of print in the US.
Last year, Chase-Riboud, speaking to ARTnews, said her subjects are “people who have been rejected by mainstream history because of their race, because of their gender, because of their politics, or because of war. I think that as a group of people, they are some of the most fascinating ones that ever existed.”
During the course of her career, Chase-Riboud has rarely been represented by a commercial gallery, although she did, for a period, work with New York’s Michael Rosenfeld Gallery. Prior to joining Hauser & Wirth, Erin Jenoa Gilbert represented her independently, facilitating her exhibitions and serving as her agent.
“She sees the importance of what a large gallery can do for her, in terms of the institutions and the market, and also thinking of her legacy,” Payot said, referring to the fact that Chase-Riboud is now in her 80s. “This is different when you are young. Age becomes a factor.”
He added that Chase-Riboud relished the opportunities afforded her by a gallery the size of Hauser & Wirth. “She said to me, ‘When is my Hong Kong show?’ I said, ‘Whenever you want to do that.’ She said, ‘Well, you better hurry up and do that!’”