Sanford Biggers is a Harlem-based interdisciplinary artist who works in film/video, installation, sculpture, music, and performance.
He received a BA from Morehouse College in Atlanta, Georgia, an MFA from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, Illinois. He attended Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture in 1998. Biggers says that due to a lack of art major classes at Morehouse, he was required to take the majority of his classes at the all-women Spelman College.
Biggers’ art frequently references African-American ethnography, hip-hop music, Buddhism, African spirituality, Indo-European Vodoun, jazz, Afrofuturism, urban culture, and icons from Americana.
He has said that he places “no hierarchy on chronology, references or media,” and his work has been characterized by meditation and improvisation. He says his themes are “meant to broaden and complicate our read on American history.” He also uses syncretism to highlight the interconnectedness of seemly disparate cultural practices.
To make the viewer an active element, Biggers often turns his sculptures into performances. Having spent most of his life playing piano, this performative element frequently takes the form of music.
In 2019, Biggers was inducted into the New York Foundation for the Arts Hall of Fame. In 2010, Biggers was awarded the Greenfield Prize at the Hermitage Artist Retreat, a two-year residency, and a commission of new work. The commission formed the centerpiece of Sanford Biggers: Codex, a 2012 solo exhibition at the Ringling Museum curated by Matthew McLendon.
In 2009 he received the William H. Johnson Prize and was one of the three finalists for the inaugural Jack Wolgin International Competition in the Fine Arts, the largest juried prize in the world to go to an individual visual artist. Biggers, in 2008, received the Creative Capital Award in the discipline of Visual Arts. Biggers was an Eyebeam artist-in-residence in 2000.
In 2018 Biggers was interviewed by Vinson Cunningham, a writer for the New Yorker magazine, about his impact on contemporary political art and his role in the Black Lives Matter movement. Also, in 2018, Biggers was given an art award by the American Academy of Arts and Letters.
In 2021, Biggers received the 26th Annual Heinz Award for the Arts.