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Faith Ringgold, For the Women’s House, 1971, oil on canvas, 96 x 96". Courtesy of Rose M. Singer Center, Rikers Island Correctional Center 2017 © Faith Ringgold / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York.
Faith Ringgold, For the Women’s House, 1971, oil on canvas, 96 x 96". Courtesy of Rose M. Singer Center, Rikers Island Correctional Center 2017 © Faith Ringgold / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York.

Faith Ringgold Painting to Travel from Rikers Island to Brooklyn Museum

A Fatih Ringgold work dating to 1972 will move from the Rikers Island Correctional Institution for Women, where it has resided for five decades, to the Brooklyn Museum following a review by New York City’s Public Design Commission. The eight-foot-square oil-on-canvas For the Women’s House, depicts women engaged in various professions, including those of bus driver, construction worker, president, and basketball player. Ringgold made the painting after receiving a 1971 Creative Artists Public Service (CAPS) grant for the creation of a public work and the following year chose the women’s facility at Rikers as its home. In a 1972 interview, she elaborated on her decision to locate it there. “I asked myself, ‘Do you want your work to be somewhere where nobody wants it, or do you want it to be somewhere it is needed?’ These women have been rejected by society; they are the blood guilt of society.”

The work was whitewashed in 1988, when the facility became a detention center for men and the work was deemed inappropriate. According to the Brooklyn Museum, which included the work in the 2017 exhibition “We Wanted a Revolution: Black Radical Women, 1965–85,” it was saved by a guard, restored, and placed back on display in the newly constructed Rose M. Singer Women’s Center. The painting’s permanent move was announced at the end of December by Chirlane McCray, wife of now-former New York City mayor Bill de Blasio, as she was ending her tenure as first lady. “The history of New York City’s success is very much about how women contributed in every aspect of the city’s development,” noted McCray in her announcement. “But too many of those stories remain untold, particularly for women of color whose achievements were literally erased from history books. I’m proud that this historic painting will be preserved at the Brooklyn Museum where children can see it and know that they too can create works of art that ignite change, expand awareness and fire the imagination.”

The Art for Justice Fund, led by philanthropist Agnes Gund, will fund a new work to occupy the painting’s now-vacated place on Riker’s Island. “I am pleased to know that Faith Ringgold’s important painting will be moved to a permanent home with the Brooklyn Museum, at the artist’s request,” said Gund. “It is my fervent hope we will all see Rikers Island shuttered, and everyone incarcerated and working there soon relocated to a safer and more positive environment.”

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