The Brooklyn Museum’s Elizabeth A. Sackler Center for Feminist Art is celebrating its 5th anniversary this week by holding an extraordinary banquet with some of the world’s greatest women of the past three thousand years invited.
The celebratory banquet is wonderful installation artwork produced on a grand scale, created by Judy Chicago. The decorative sculpture, “The Dinner Party,” is a huge, triangular table set to host 39 special guests, 13 women from each of the past three millennia on each side. From legendary, primordial goddesses, to women from the Middle Ages and up until the 20th century, included are such luminaries as Queen Elizabeth I, Sacajawea and Emily Dickenson. An additional 999 names are inscribed in gold leaf on the tiled floor.
Curator of the Sackler Center, Catherine Morris explained why an additional fourth side to the table will be symbolically presented during the anniversary celebrations:
“The question I often get when giving tours of ‘The Dinner Party’ is ‘who would be there today, who would we add?'”
In response to this question 15 contemporary women will be honored on Wednesday at the center’s first-ever First Awards, all first in their specialties and fields.
The honorees are, in part, Sandra Day O’Conner, the first woman to serve on the US Supreme Court; Toni Morrison, the first African-American woman to be honored with the Nobel Prize for literature; the first woman chief of the Cherokee Nation Wilma Pearl Mankiller (who died in 2010); and Muriel Siebert, the first woman to have a seat on the New York Stock Exchange.
The Sackler Center is largely the result of the efforts of its chief benefactor, Elizabeth Sackler. The 8,000-square-feet Center’s main aim is to raise awareness and appreciation of feminist art.
“There is a serious underrepresentation of women and feminist artists in museums and galleries globally,” said Sackler. Sackler donated Chicago’s “The Dinner Party” to the museum, where it makes its permanent home when it is not on tour.
“The center’s purpose is not to resolve the use of the word feminism,” Sackler said. “It is a place where people can come to have dialogues about the meaning of feminism, reminding us of women’s contributions in the past, marking women’s achievements in the present, and inspiring contributions in the future.”