September 18, 2023

Installation view of Feather Room at Haus der Kunst, 2023. © Judy Chicago/Artist Rights Society (ARS) New York; Photo by Megan Schultz

In September, Megan Schultz, our studio manager, and Karl Hutchins, our installation supervisor, spent two weeks in Munich overseeing the installation of my Feather Room, part of the exhibition “Inside Other Spaces” at the Haus der Kunst. The show is historic in that it reclaims a number of women artists who created immersive environments from 1956-1976, a time when this genre was entirely male-dominated, at least in terms of what work was promoted and critically recognized.

The Feather Room was originally conceived in 1966 and installed at the Rolf Nelson Gallery in Los Angeles. Since that time, it has only been re-installed once, at the Villa Arson in Nice, France, in Geraldine Gourbe’s 2018 show, “Los Angeles: The Cool Years”. In an amazing turn of events, it will be seen several times in the next few years as the Haus der Kunst exhibit is scheduled to tour to several other venues. And in late October, Megan and Karl will travel to Europe again to oversee the installation in “Immersions. The origins, 1948-1969” at Musée des Beaux-Arts de Lausanne in Switzerland.

I thought it would be interesting if Megan shared her thoughts about their trip (Karl’s first to Europe) as part of my new Chicago Gazette.


By Megan Schultz

Megan Schultz surrounded by feathers inside the Feather Room in Munich, Germany.

In September, 2023, I (joined by our Warehouse Manager/Installation Supervisor, Karl Hutchins) were in Munich for the installation of Feather Room. In between outings in search of traditional Bavarian cuisine, German beer, and the best people-watching spots, our days were filled with walking from here to there (so much walking), magnificent architecture both old and new, making connections with new friends and colleagues, and oh, SO many feathers. 

The first iteration of Feather Room was constructed using plastic sheeting inflated by a noisy generator, and filled with (admittedly odorous) chicken feathers. What a difference time and improvements in technology make! For the installation at Haus der Kunst, Judy’s intentions for creating a truly sublime space became closer to being realized. With the help of the immensely talented staff at the museum, we were able to develop a system of seamless LED backlit walls to contain the roomful of (now cruelty free) feathers with the result being a near total dematerialization of the space leaving visitors immersed in nothing but light and softness.

The Feather Room joins other historic and ground-breaking installations by women from around the world, including Lygia Clark, Aleksandra Kasuba, Marta Minujin, Tsuruko Yamazaki, and Tania Mouraud to name a few. Many of these works had not been installed since their original construction; some had never been realized during the artist’s lifetime; all were largely ignored at the time they were created, either (to paraphrase Artistic Director Andrea Lissoni’s observation) because they did not fit the “white cube” paradigm or because they purposefully rejected it.

(Left) Exterior of Haus der Kunst. © Judy Chicago/Artist Rights Society (ARS) New York. (Middle) Installation view of Feather Room at Haus der Kunst, 2023. (Right) Karl Hutchins enjoying Schweinshaxe in Munich, Germany. Photos by Megan Schultz.

It cannot be stressed enough how important exhibitions like these are in the efforts to undo the erasure of work made by artists who do not only not fit neatly into the patriarchal canon, but openly challenge it. Further underscoring the significance of this exhibition, specifically staged at the Haus der Kunst, is the museum’s past as a place designed by the Nazis to be a propaganda machine for the Third Reich. All these years later, evidence still remains throughout Munich of the devastation of war, the insidiousness of oppression, and, as Virginia Woolf so aptly described the Holocaust as “patriarchy gone mad.” It is embedded in the walls and on the streets, and as we watch the world seemingly once again, slip into madness, witnessing hard-fought for human rights taken away, corruption in our governments take hold, and the flagrant destruction of the planet, what a better time to fill these haunted spaces with light and beauty and well, feathers. 

Judy Chicago, Birth Trinity, from the Birth Project, 1983. Needlepoint on canvas. Needlework by Susan Bloomenstein, Elizabeth Colten, Karen Fogel, Helene Hirmes, Bernice Levitt, Linda Rothenberg, and Miriam Vogelman. Collection of The Gusford Collection. ©️ Judy Chicago/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York. Photo ©️ Donald Woodman/ARS, New York

Now that Megan and Karl are back, we are all turning our attention to the New Museum show which opens to the public on October 14th. This will be the most significant exhibition of my six decade career, not only because of the breadth of the work curator, Massimiliano Gioni, is presenting, but because of the contextualization of my body of art in centuries of women’s cultural production. In a ‘show within a show’ Massimiliano has assembled “The City of Ladies”, titled after Christine de Pisan’s 15th century publication, “The Book of the City of Ladies”, which should be understood as the first major feminist argument in that it stimulated a European wide discussion about the role and rights of women.

 Judy Chicago, detail of the Christine de Pisan Runner, from the The Dinner Party, 1979.  Elizabeth A. Sackler Center for Feminist Art, Collection of the Brooklyn Museum. ©️ Judy Chicago/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York. Photo ©️ Donald Woodman/ARS, New York

The “City of Ladies” will contain between 80 and 100 works of art, writings and documents that constitute an alternative cultural paradigm to the male-centered paradigm that – up till now – has been considered a ‘universal’ art history. I have known about and drawn upon this history and to have my work placed into this context will illuminate it in an entirely new way. There will also be the possibility of viewers becoming involved in one of my participatory projects which – because it is still in development – I cannot disclose yet.

In closing let me express my profound gratitude to Massimiliano and the New Museum, also, Phaidon, who has produced an incredible catalog; I never thought I’d live to see the day this exhibition will open.

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