Ivanka Thinks The Ivanka Art Exhibit Is Sexist

Photo: SHAWN THEW/EPA-EFE/REX/Shutterstock.
Currently on display at the Flashpoint Gallery in Washington, D.C.: a performance art piece in which a model who closely resembles Ivanka Trump vacuums up crumbs that visitors throw on the carpet in front of her. Wearing a pink dress, shiny stilettos, and with her hair in curls, she smiles and cleans up the mess wearing a docile expression.
In an interview with ABC News' Abby Huntsman, Ivanka called the exhibit "a very sexist representation of a woman." She also took issue with the fact that the model is only 16.
"What bothered me about this image...is that they hired a 16-year-old girl," she told Huntsman. "I don't know what her situation is. But they hired this model to stand there and have crumbs thrown at her for two hours a day... So I have a real problem with that...and that was what infuriated me, more than anything."
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Earlier this week, she responded to the piece on Twitter. "Women can choose to knock each other down or build each other up. I choose the latter," she wrote on Tuesday morning.
New York-based artist Jennifer Rubell, the creator of the piece, which was presented by CulturalDC, responded by urging Ivanka to visit the exhibit and form her own response.
"Ivanka, I would encourage you to see the piece and form your own direct response," she tweeted. "I would be happy to arrange for you to do it alone with none of the media circus that has formed around it. Not knocking anyone down. Exploring complicated subjects we all care about."
On Monday, when the piece launched, critics of "Ivanka Vacuuming" were quick to point out that the "exhibit reflects every stereotype feminists claim to stand against, oversexualizing Ivanka’s body and ignoring her hard work."
But Rubell said that she wasn't making any type of judgment about Ivanka. Instead, she said, she wanted to explore "the relationship between the viewer and the character's femininity," as well as our relationship with Ivanka, and wanted the piece to serve as "a questioning of our complicity in her role-playing."
Photo: courtesy of Ryan Maxwell Photography.
"Usually the qualities of feminism and femininity are seen in opposition," Rubell said in an interview with Refinery29. "Most women clearly lean toward one side or the other in their self-presentation. Something very interesting about Ivanka — her clothing line, too — is that it seems the goal is to achieve both of these qualities as part of the conversation. This is something women struggle with, and her conclusion is unusual and interesting."
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But won't portraying her in a domestic role and having people toss crumbs at her be seen as encouraging subjugation?
"First of all, people aren't throwing crumbs at her," said Rubell. "She's vacuuming them up from the carpet. You're participating in this act of subjugation, that's true, but the piece is not 'Ivanka vacuuming,' it's a combination of that and the participating viewer. ... It puts the viewer in a very complicated position. And I'm most interested in the complications of the viewer; how they decide to engage with this feminine figure. What does it mean to either throw crumbs, or stand there watching other people throwing crumbs?"
As for the crumbs, they could symbolize a lot of things, said Rubell. "The cheapness of our appreciation of her. Her desire to clean things up. It's extremely open-ended and open to many different interpretations. ... One thing [tossing the crumbs] could say is that we’re all complicit in this dynamic and how it relates to feminism and femininity."
Rubell said she was inspired when she saw photos of Ivanka at the G20 summit wearing a dress from her own line. She then had her model wear the same dress and asked hair and makeup artists to recreate Ivanka's look. She said it took a while to find someone who so closely physically matches Ivanka.
Her motivation was far from political, she said. "Art can offer a truth that politics can’t. It can create a portrait of things that contradict each other. This is a great gift of art and a great defect of politics. There’s no greater clarity than the piece itself."
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So, there you go — a piece of performance art just as mysterious and open to interpretation as the first daughter and White House advisor herself.
"Ivanka" will be vacuuming thanks to CulturalDC until February 17, and the piece is also being livestreamed.
Refinery29 has reached out to Ivanka Trump for comment and we will update this story when we hear back.
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