Born in London, Sonia Boyce MBE RA is a Black British artist who studied Fine Art at Stourbridge College of Art, West Midlands.
Boyce’s early figurative pastel drawings and photographic collages address issues of race, ethnicity and the contemporary urban experience, questioning racial stereotypes in the media and day-to-day life. Other work explores social practice and collaboration, with the audience as an integral part of the artwork. Employing spontaneous performative actions and incorporating photographs, video, prints and sound in multimedia installations, Boyce demonstrates how cultural differences might be articulated, mediated and enjoyed. Boyce’s works are held in the collections of Tate Modern and the V&A in London, and her Exquisite Cacophony was shown at ‘All the World’s Futures’ at the 56th Venice Biennale in 2015. She is the first Black woman to represent Britain in Venice Biennale 2021.
In 1995, Iniva commissioned Boyce to work with Brighton Museum’s collection of non-Western art and ethnography. Exploring themes of observation, interpretation and her identification with an ancestral past, Boyce produced an installation and book entitled Peep. In the same year, her work was featured in ‘Mirage: Enigmas of Race, Difference and Desire’, an exhibition held at the ICA in London, with a catalogue published by Iniva. In 1997-98 through a collaboration between the University of Manchester, the North West Arts, Cornerhouse and Iniva, Boyce was granted a fellowship out of which emerged the publication Sonia Boyce: Performance (Annotations 2).
Boyce’s exhibition ‘Scat: Sound and Collaboration’ was presented by Iniva in 2013. It focused on the significance of sound in art, bringing together two immersive video works along with artefacts from the ‘Devotional Collection’: Boyce’s archives of CDs, cassettes, vinyl records and other ephemera charting the history of Black women in the music industry.
Boyce co-edited Shades of Black: Assembling Black Arts in 1980s Britain, a book which charts the history of the Black Arts Movement, published in collaboration with Iniva, and for which Boyce was presented with the Historians of British Art Book Prize. An extension of this work is her role in the Black Arts and Modernism project (BAM) which aims to explore the contributions of Black British artists to modern art history. ‘Speech Act: Reflection-Imagination-Repetition’, an exhibition of over 40 artists held at the Manchester Art Gallery between 2018 and 2019 was developed in conversation with BAM.
In 2007, Boyce was awarded an MBE for her services to the arts and in 2016 became the first black woman to be elected a Royal Academician.
She lives in London and is Professor of Fine Arts at Middlesex University and Chair of Black Art and Design at the University of the Arts.