Allen Jones at Royal Academy
Table, Chair and Hatstand by Allen Jones
The famous Hat Stand trio sculpture – which occupied media for weeks earlier this year - standing in front of me at the Burlington Arcade in Royal Academy. Hat Stand is a mannequin in radiating black leather knickers and high boots. Chair is the most famous of the three: a woman lies on her back, with her knees against her chest and a cushion on top of her. That’s the seat, and her calves make the chair’s back. The third element is the Table, being topless, is more classical and less provocative.
Earlier this year ‘Chair’, generated a great controversy when Dasha Zhukova, the gallerist and girlfriend of Roman Abramovich, was photographed on the seat of Jones’s sculpture. The woman figure was black, as well as she was looking almost dead. That single image made all the controversial debates, super offended feminists and turned out to an inextricable trouble, where both Zhukova and Jones where blamed with racism.
The controversial image of Dasha Zhukova on 'Chair' (2014)
From Allen Jones’s point of view, whose paintings got him kicked out of Royal College at the start of the 1960s, it was very simple. He was just “presenting the figures as objects that would demand an immediate, non-art response: ie, chair – sitting; table – using.”
One thing is true; he is not that innocent. There is an attempt to dislocate the normal expectations of the works throughout the show, however because of this it is impossible to consider Jones as having one single view of women, in which they are objectified. In one room for example; painted metal sculptures stand out impressively, where couples fold on each other making one, which eases the distinction between one person and another, between genders.
All in all, the exhibition and the debate it once have generated underline how much the world has changed. Each work is controversial in their own way, yet they demonstrate a true reflection of capitalism and gender roles in today’s society - they are just mirrored in an extremely provocative way.