July 29, 2021

Barbara Chase-Riboud receives late honors from the art world

She was the one who dared to pursue Steven Spielberg and his film Friendship (1997) in US courts for plagiarizing one of his great historical novels documenting an 1839 slave revolt – a confidential arrangement concludes the dispute just before the Oscars. She again who brought her “Contribution to American history” from his first novel, La Virginienne, published in 1979, about Sally Hemings, Métis slave who secretly shared the life of US President Thomas Jefferson – DNA tests after the book’s release confirmed her research.

It was she who, after the death of George Floyd, in May 2020, while the debunking of sculptures representing slavers was being discussed, proposed to erect her Africa Rising (1998) in place of the statue representing Theodore Roosevelt in conquest in front of the Museum of Natural History in New York. This monumental sculpture, sheltered not far, in the FBI building, represents Saartjie Baartman, this “Hottentot Venus” reduced to slavery at the beginning of the 19th century.e century and exhibited in France as a fairground animal, and to which she also devoted a novel, in 2003.

If, through words as well as through drawing and her sculptures, Barbara Chase-Riboud has never ceased to give visibility to the struggles and crimes erased from official memory, in France, where she has nevertheless been established since 1961, she remains today hui an almost unknown in the artistic world. But 2021 looks like a catching-up year for the frail 81-year-old artist.

Outstanding creativity and productivity

At the start of the year, she received the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Aware association (endowed with 10,000 euros). A few months earlier, in New York, where the majority of her collectors are concentrated, she won the American equivalent of this young French prize: the Anonymous Was a Woman prize (endowed with 20,500 euros). Both aim to emerge from the shadows of unjustly unrecognized female artists. And the sculptress is once again in the spotlight in Paris, where she has just been awarded, at the beginning of June, the grand artistic prize of the Simone and Cino Del Duca Foundation, within the Académie des beaux-arts (a endowed with 100,000 euros). At the start of the 2020 school year, an exhibition that was rediscovering, imagined by curator Guillaume Désanges under La Verrière of the Fondation d’entreprise Hermès, in Brussels, preceded this string of late recognitions.

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