I went to a magnificent dinner party at the Brooklyn Museum, but none of the invited guests attended, and not a single morsel of food or drop of drink was served.
That’s because this wasn’t a run-of-the-mill dinner party; it was Judy Chicago’s The Dinner Party, completed in 1979 and regarded as “the most significant icon of 1970s American feminist art,” according to the description. It took five years for the artist, author, feminist, and educator, along with hundreds of collaborators, to create the large-scale work, which celebrates the achievements of 1,038 real and mythical female figures to Western civilization over the millennia. Most of these women had been neglected by history until they were recognized by feminist scholars.
The main course of The Dinner Party is a massive ceremonial banquet, arranged on a triangular table measuring 48-feet on each side, with 39 place settings.
The ‘guests of honor’ commemorated on the table are represented by intricately embroidered runners, executed in a historically specific styles. A gold ceramic chalice and utensils, a napkin with an embroidered edge, and a 14-inch painted china plate with a central motif based on butterfly and vulva forms sit on top of each runner. Each plate design is rendered in a style that reflects the woman invited to sit in front of it. The names of the other 999 women are inscribed on the hand-cast tile floor below the table.
The Dinner Party is the central installation of the museum’s Elizabeth A. Sackler Center for Feminist Art, supporting Judy Chicago’s desire “to end the ongoing cycle of omission in which women were written out of the historical record.”
The artist’s work is in the collections of museums around the world, and her 10 books have brought her art and philosophy to millions.