Sanford Biggers

Biography of Sanford Biggers

Sanford Biggers is a Harlem-based interdisciplinary artist addressing race issues through a reconstruction of history. His work aims to confront the dysfunctional relationships that have existed and continue to exist, between African-Americans and America. He dislikes writing wall texts to accompany his pieces, rather hoping that the audience come to their own conclusions after being encouraged to pause in his works.  


Spanning sculpture, drawing, installation, film, music and performance, Sanford Biggers’ work is equally playful and political, asserting and quiet. Such a broad and rich approach makes it hard to reduce his work to a singular style or recognizable brand but speaks to his overarching artistic cosmology. Sanford Biggers often complicates themes as diverse as hip hop, politics, identity, Buddhism and art history in order to offer new perspective and links between recognizable symbols. His approach is multi-disciplinary and mediates between the aesthetic and the conceptual, always focusing on race and history as subject matter.


Sanford Biggers was born in Los Angeles in 1970. His parents, a neurosurgeon and teacher, encouraged his artistic sensibility which was apparent even when he was a young child. He now lives and works in New York. As well as making art Sanford Biggers teaches at Columbia University and also plays the keyboard in a funk-soul band called Moon Medicin.


Sanford Biggers’ works are often site-specific. He uses antique quilts and found textiles in large-scale installations to recreate the convergence of cultures that has dominated his life. His prints deal with similar issues, often taking popular black iconography such as the Afro pick, and transforming it into a symbol of black pride and identity. Laocoön, his 10-foot-long Fat Albert inflatable (Fat Albert is a character in Bill Cosby’s animated series Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids) is one of his most iconic works. Unveiled at Miami Beach’s Art Basel in 2015, the dying sculpture, which was periodically filled and deflated by an air pump, was displayed at a time of burgeoning tension, just after the deaths of several black Americans because of police brutality. The sculpture has been interpreted as a response to this, addressing how black men were going to survive in that society. Sanford Biggers, however, argues that the work is not a response to any specific tragedy. Just like the rest of his work, he hopes to expand the meaning of this piece beyond the specific moment and into the future.


Sanford Biggers has had solo exhibitions at the Brooklyn Museum, the Sculpture Centre and Mass MoCA. “Selah” was his most recent solo exhibition held at the Marianne Boesky Gallery in New York. He also won the Rome Prize in Visual Arts in 2017.

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