High Art: Artist Lorna Simpson to Receive the 2019 J. Paul Getty Medal

Honoree Artist/Photographer Lorna Simpson attends the 2018 Whitney Gala on May 22, 2018 at Whitney Museum in New York City.
Photo: Dimitrios Kambouris (Getty Images for The Whitney Museum of American Art)

She’s a visionary who envisions us wholly; artist Lorna Simpson has been announced as one of 2019’s recipients of the J. Paul Getty Medal, the highest honor of the J. Paul Getty Trust, alongside Classicist Professor Mary Beard and fellow artist Ed Ruscha.

“We award the Getty Medal to recognize outstanding achievement in the fields in which we work,” said Maria Hummer-Tuttle, chair of the J. Paul Getty Board of Trustees, in a statement. “We are honored to present the medal this year to three leaders who have helped transform and deepen our understanding and appreciation of the visual arts and the humanities.”


The Brooklyn, N.Y.-born Simpson has been a force in the art world virtually since her emergence on the scene in the mid-1980s. With a BFA in photography from New York’s School of Visual Arts and an MFA in Visual Arts from the University of California San Diego, Simpson’s work combines her incredible technical skill as a photographer, collagist, poet and more with cultural critiques on race, gender, history, environment, intersectionality, representation and identity in America. Her arresting visual work has often been punctuated with Simpson’s own viscerally moving original text.

Three decades into her acclaimed career, Simpson is globally recognized as one of the leading voices in the contemporary art world. Her work has been exhibited around the globe, including at the Museum of Modern Art; the Museum of Contemporary Art; the Museum of Contemporary Art; the Whitney Museum of American Art and the Guggenheim Museum. Simpson also has the distinction of being the first black female artist to be included in the 44th Venice Biennale, in Venice, Italy in 1990, included again for the 56th.

The Getty Medal was established in 2013 by the trustees of the J. Paul Getty Trust and has thus far been awarded to 11 distinguished individuals in honor of their contributions to the arts. Previous honorees include world-renowned cellist Yo-Yo Ma and Thelma Golden, Director and Chief Curator of The Studio Museum in Harlem. Of Simpson’s inclusion in this extraordinary collective, James Cuno, president and CEO of the J. Paul Getty Trust, said:

“She is at once a photographer and multimedia artist whose work is both trenchant in its critique of race, gender, and identity and exquisite in its formal beauty and technical execution.” (Sidebar: She also has incredible personal style.)


“I am humbled by this honor,” said Simpson. “I am so thrilled to receive the Getty Medal.”

Lorna Simpson attends PAMM Art Of The Party Presented By Valentino at Perez Art Museum Miami on April 1, 2017 in Miami, Florida.
Photo: John Parra (Getty Images for Perez Art Museum Miami)

Simpson will be presented her medal in September at the Getty Center in Los Angeles.



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Maiysha Kai

Maiysha Kai is Managing Editor of The Glow Up and your average Grammy-nominated goddess next door. Minneapolis born, Chicago bred, New York built. Nuance is her superpower.