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Judy Chicago Hits Back at ‘Dinner Party’ Criticism

In further news: UK class gap impacting young people’s engagement with the arts; Uffizi goes digital; British Museum helps return Iraqi antiquities

Judy Chicago, The Dinner Party, 1974–1979, mixed media, Elizabeth A. Sackler Center for Feminist Art, Collection of the Brooklyn Museum. Courtesy: © Judy Chicago

Judy Chicago, The Dinner Party, 1974–1979, mixed media, Elizabeth A. Sackler Center for Feminist Art, Collection of the Brooklyn Museum. Courtesy: © Judy Chicago

Judy Chicago, The Dinner Party, 1974–1979, mixed media, Elizabeth A. Sackler Center for Feminist Art, Collection of the Brooklyn Museum. Courtesy: © Judy Chicago

Judy Chicago has defended her iconic feminist artwork The Dinner Party (1974-79) after one reviewer argued that it ignored Spanish and Latin American women. The triangular table comprises 39 ceramic place settings that resemble vulvas dedicated to real and fictional women from across time – from Sappho to Elizabeth I – and a ‘heritage floor’ acknowledging 999 other women. It is now permanently installed at New York’s Brooklyn Museum. In a recent review of the museum’s ‘Radical Women’ exhibition, Esther Allen wrote in The New York Review of Books: ‘It’s now quite hard to keep from noticing that none of the thirty-nine Great Women granted a place at Chicago’s elaborate table is from Spain, Portugal, or any of those empires’ former colonies in the Americas.’ Chicago then hit back in a letter to the publication, saying: ‘At the time I was working on The Dinner Party, in the mid-1970s, there was little or no knowledge about any of these women. The prevailing point of view was that women had no history.’ Chicago said that figures such as Santa Teresa de Ávila, Sor Juana de Inés la Cruz and Frida Kahlo were all acknowledged in the artwork, through the artwork’s ‘heritage floor’ or on accompanying information panels. ‘How unfortunate that women continue to feel the need to denigrate the work of their foremothers,’ Chicago wrote. You can follow the exchange over here.

A team of Indiana University scholars have digitized hundreds of artefacts from the Uffizi Gallery’s collection. A newly launched website showcases a collaboration between the university and Florentine museum, which grants anyone access to study more than 300 ancient artefacts, fragments and sculptures from the Uffizi’s collection, turned into 3-D models online. Scanned and digitized by Indiana University students at the museum’s warehouse at Villa Corsini, the online collection also acts as a restoration record for the country’s internal conservation database.

Young people in the arts are impacted by a ‘class gap’, two new UK reports find. Commissioned by Arts Council England, the findings from two separate research projects have shown that there are several barriers to young people’s engagement with the arts and culture, most notably anxiety and financial issues. Feeling under-confident when entering new situations was seen to be a ‘genuine issue for many young people’, a report by music charity Sound Connections found. In addition, ticket prices are also another limiting factor, according to a report by ART31 – with most young people from less privileged backgrounds only participating in the arts at school or on school trips. The Sound Connections study also noted that wider societal perception of some art forms ‘reinforces the impression that arts are not widely accepted’, and that ‘if schools enforce the perception that arts are not academic, young people’s confidence and willingness to participate is dramatically affected.’

The British Museum has helped to return 5,000-year-old antiquities to Iraq, which were looted from an ancient site after the US invasion in 2003. Eight objects were confiscated by Scotland Yard in May 2003, as the dealer responsible had no proof of ownership for the artefacts which included jewellery, a decorated seal and a mace-head. According to the British Museum, the eight objects were removed from Tello around the same time of the invasion – many antiques were targeted as troops were unable to guard a number of sites. Hartwig Fischer, director of the British Museum, said: ‘I am delighted that we are able to assist in the return of these important objects to Iraq’. Fischer said that the British Museum was committed to fighting against the ‘illicit trade and damage to cultural heritage.’

In appointments news: Amsterdam’s Stedelijk Museum has announced that Truze Lodder has been appointed as the supervisory board’s temporary chairperson; LA arts non-profit Self Help Graphics & Art has named Betty Avila, who has worked with the organization since 2015, as executive director; and Cranbrook Academy has chosen metalsmith, educator and administrator Susan R. Ewing as its interim director.

In awards news: the US’s National Endowment for the Humanities has awarded USD$43.1 million to 218 cultural projects across the country; Bloomberg Philanthropies is to fund Atlanta arts organizations with a USD$43 million management training programme, which seeks to support small and mid-size cultural organizations; and Mika Rottenberg has scooped the biennial USD$28,600 Kurt Schwitters Prize – the artist will also have an exhibition at Hannover’s Sprengel Museum.

In gallery news: Mika Tajima is now represented by Los Angeles’s Kayne Griffin Corcoran, with a show planned for November 2019; and Hauser & Wirth now work with Charles Gaines, with an exhibition planned for the gallery’s LA location sometime next year.

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