In 1979, Judy Chicago set the art world’s most famous table.
Her installation, "The Dinner Party," consists of a floor inscribed with 999 notable women from history as well as a triangular table with 39 dinner settings arranged in a chronological timeline of famous women. Each spot at the table includes a custom handmade table runner and, most famously, a plate with vagina iconography representative of each guest's aesthetics and accomplishments.
Now, for the first time, authentic reproductions of these plates, icons of feminist art, are available to the public for purchase.
Sarah Cascone at artnet News reports that Chicago teamed up with Prospect NY to make recreations of four of her plates: the green and lavender Sappho plate, the royal purple Elizabeth R—otherwise known as Elizabeth I—plate, the volcanic red Primordial Goddess plate and the white, crescent red and black stone Amazon plate.
On the reverse of each of the fine bone china dinner plates appear a text from or about the featured women. A silk scarf based on the Margaret Sanger table runner, two pillows designed after the entry banners to the exhibition and a puzzle based on the hundreds of names etched into "The Dinner Party"’s floor are also available for purchase.
When Cascone asked the reason it took four decades for the artist to come out with reproductions of her most famous work, Chicago said that no one before now had approached her to do it. But, as Chicago tells Hadley Keller at Architectural Digest, translating her works of art into dinnerware fit with her intentions for the monumental work.
“[M]y goal with 'The Dinner Party' was to teach a broad and diverse audience about the richness of women’s heritage—what better way to achieve this than through easily accessible reproductions?,” she says. “Who knows what kinds of conversations these plates might spark around dinner tables at home?”
Chicago says the four plates chosen for reproduction represent the overarching themes of "The Dinner Party." Sappho represents wisdom and education of other women; the Amazons represent strength and communal society; the Primordial Goddess stands for the creative force and art; and Elizabeth R. symbolizes the possibilities of female power.
The plates are part of a recent Judy Chicago renaissance. To mark the 40th anniversary of "The Dinner Party"'s debut, Cascone reports that last year, the Brooklyn Museum, where the work is currently housed, celebrated "The Dinner Party" with an exhibition detailing its history and creation. Meanwhile, at the National Museum of Women in the Arts in Washington, D.C., a contemporary re-imagining of Chicago and Miriam Schapiro’s 1972 installation “Womanhouse”—a project in which female artists filled an old mansion with feminist artwork exploring domesticity—is currently on view.
There is no word on whether other Chicago plates will be made into dinnerware. For her part, Chicago says she doesn’t care if the plates are hung on the wall or used for a grilled cheese sandwich, so long as they continue to spark conversation.
As it happens, Chicago’s aren’t the only feminist dinner plates in the news—a 50-plate collection known as the Famous Ladies Dinner Service, produced by Bloomsbury group artists Virginia Bell and Duncan Grant in the early 1930s, recently went on public display for the first time in London after being "rediscovered" in a private collection last year.