The Dinner Party
Region: North America
Subject: Sexual/Gender Orientation, Explicit Sexuality
Artist: Judy Chicago
Confronting Bodies: The University of the District of Columbia, Seattle Art Museum, and Memorial Art Gallery in Rochester, New York
Dates of Action: 1979, 1990
Location: The United States (Seattle, Rochester, and Washington D.C.)
Description of Artwork: The Dinner Party is an installation that seeks to honor women throughout history. The Dinner Party is a re-invisioned Last Supper through the point of view of women. The piece consists of a triangular table with 13 place settings on each side. Each place setting has a place mat with a woman's name from mythology or history embroidered on it and a different hand painted plate. The images on the plate are meant to evoke female genitalia. Chicago used traditionally women's crafts such as embroidery to pay tribute to women. On the floor are 2300 triangular tiles with 999 more names of women on them, meant to symbolize fractured women's history.
The Incident: The piece was first exhibited in the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art where it sparked much debate. It was then supposed to travel to the Seattle Art Museum and the Memorial Art Gallery in Rochester, New York. Both museums dropped The Dinner Party suddenly. The museums said this was because of a lack of space and lack of funds. Chicago believes they caved into public pressure over the plates that depicted female genitalia. It was shown in museums in Texas, Boston, and Brooklyn in 1980 but after a showing in Australia in 1988 the piece went back into storage. In 1990 a trustee from the University of the District of Columbia asked that Chicago donate The Dinner Party to a multi-cultural art gallery. She agreed but soon after she handed over the work. Several congressmen intervened calling the work "weird, sexual art" (Amelia Jones, 1996). There was an amendment introduced to delete 1.6 million dollars from the University's budget. The House passed the amendment but the Senate restored the money. The controversy had caused a student strike to remove the work and so Chicago took back the work.
Results of Incident: The Dinner Party remains without a permanent home.
Source: Censorship: A World Encyclopedia