Judy ChicagoAmerican (Chicago, Illinois, 1939)
Georgia O'Keeffe Plate #1
Judy Chicago's monumental installation The Dinner Party represents a banquet honoring 39 women who have made significant contributions to Western society and culture. The central element of the work is a triangular table featuring place settings that commemorate the achievements of each guest, from ancient mythological goddesses to the 20th-century artist Georgia O'Keeffe. The names of an additional 999 women are inscribed on floor tiles beneath the table in acknowledgement of others whose stories and influence have traditionally been overlooked. Thus, The Dinner Party formally establishes a place at the table of history for more than 1,000 women whose actions have shaped the world since antiquity.
This test plate for the Georgia O'Keeffe place setting was given to SFMOMA by Mary Ross Taylor, a Texas-based arts advocate and feminist bookstore owner, after The Dinner Party was shown here in 1979. (Taylor organized a showing of the installation in Houston the following year.) The test plate differs slightly in color from the final version; both are based on O'Keeffe's 1926 painting Black Iris. O'Keeffe is the most contemporary woman included in Chicago's pantheon, and her plate is the most three-dimensional. For Chicago, its increased height and deep relief represent the extent to which opportunities for creative expression had grown for women by O'Keeffe's lifetime. Chicago has noted, however, that the heightened form remains firmly joined to its base as testament to the ongoing struggles of many women artists.
Today The Dinner Party is an iconic work, but its premiere at SFMOMA in March 1979 marked the first time a major institution had recognized the feminist art movement. Over the course of the three-month exhibition more than 100,000 visitors viewed the installation, and the show generated a tremendous amount of attention, both positive and negative, from the international press. A planned tour to other museums fell apart, but popular demand fueled grassroots efforts to organize further exhibitions. Since 1979, The Dinner Party has been seen in 16 venues in six countries by more than 1,000,000 people. In 1996 an exhibition at UCLA's Hammer Museum, Sexual Politics: Judy Chicago's Dinner Party in Feminist Art History, cemented the piece's status as a landmark work in feminist art practice and theory. The Dinner Party is now permanently housed at the Elizabeth A. Sackler Center for Feminist Art at the Brooklyn Museum.
Note: The museum's 2009 publication San Francisco Museum of Modern Art: 75 Years of Looking Forward incorrectly states that The Dinner Party was not exhibited from the time it was shown at SFMOMA until 2007, when it was permanently installed at the Elizabeth A. Sackler Center for Feminist Art at the Brooklyn Museum. The museum and authors of the catalogue regret this error. For the correct and complete exhibition history, please visit the artist's website or the Brooklyn Museum's feature page on The Dinner Party.