Sims Reed Rare Books×

Artforum T-Shirt

Benglis, Lynda

New York. Published by the artist. 1974
Lynda Benglis felt underrepresented in the male-run artistic community of 1970s New York and so confronted the male ethos in a series of magazine advertisements satirising pin-up girls and Hollywood actresses. Benglis chose the medium of magazines as it allowed her complete control of an image rather than allowing it to be run through critical commentary.

This series culminated with a particularly controversial one in the November 1974 issue of Artforum featuring Benglis aggressively posed with a large latex dildo and wearing only a pair of sunglasses promoting an upcoming exhibition of hers at the Paula Cooper Gallery. One of her original ideas for the advertisement had been for her and collaborative partner Robert Morris to work together as a double pin-up, but eventually found that using a double dildo was sufficient as she found it to be both male and female. Morris, too, put out an advertisement for his work in that month's Artforum which featured himself in full butch S&M regalia.

The advertisement reverberated in both expected and unexpected ways – at once celebrated and condemned by feminists, feted and reviled by fellow artists, embraced and rebuffed by intellectuals, banned by some art schools and cited as inspiration by many art students, in short resulting in a seismic realignment within the artworld. Some artists admired Benglis, viewing the advert as both a powerful artistic statement and a denunciation of the male-dominated art scene. Cindy Sherman, then a young art student, has since said it was one of the pivotal moments of her own career; sculptor Larry Bell thanked Artforum for daring to print it. Others were less impressed. Had her photo not appeared in Artforum but rather in a pornographic magazine, read a letter from two prominent feminists, it would have remained pornography and as indefensible as anything else.

The cost of placing the advert so provocatively in the early pages of Artforum was approximately US $ 3000. Benglis was to part-fund this through the sale of T-shirts, printed with the same naked image emblazoned on the front. Examples of this original shirt, printed by Bill Weege at the Jones Road Print Shop, are understandably difficult to find, and very rarely appear on the market.
Cotton T-shirt (30 x 27 in), with screenprint and airbrushed colouring. The T-shirt was printed by Bill Weege at the Jones Road Print Shop.

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