21c Museum Hotel receives overwhelming response to ‘Dress Up, Speak Up’

“Dress Up, Speak Up: Regalia and Resistance,” one of the latest exhibitions at the 21c Museum Hotel in Cincinnati. will be on view through June 2021.

The contemporary, multimedia exhibition may be experienced in person by appointment at the downtown gallery or through a new virtual exhibition.

“We have not had a community response like this since we exhibited the ‘Future is Female’ show back in 2017. I think when people can personally relate to the imagery, not just the concepts in the art, they allow themselves more room to investigate what they’re looking at. I’ve heard people say, “That boy looks like me!” and “I can’t believe I’m able to be in the same room as all my favorite artists!” and “This is the most diverse collection of art I’ve ever seen anywhere in my life,” said Michael Hurst, museum manager, 21c Museum Hotel.

The goals are always to intrigue, to provoke, to educate and to slow down time in the best way possible, he said.

“The exhibition highlights the use of fashion, costume, make-up, and other forms of self-adornment in artworks that examine a wide range of social, historical, and cultural issues related to how discrimination and inequity have shaped both identity and representation,” said Alice Gray Stites, chief curator and museum director, 21c Museum Hotel.

“Featuring 90 works by 36 artists from 17 countries around the world, the exhibition includes painting, sculpture, photography, video, and a significant number of textile-based works. Whether portrayed in historic or contemporary fashions, the figures depicted are adorned to confront, transform, and redefine cultural visibility. The regalia they wear enacts resistance against cultural erasure

The exhibition fills two floors of the 21c Museum Hotel in Cincinnati and is open to in-person guests by appointment as well as to hotel guests. Those interested in scheduling an in-person visit, can reserve a spot at https://21cmuseumhotels.simplybook.me/v2/#book.

“I’d hope that our guests leave with an appreciation for cultural fashion, artistic craft, and personal storytelling. There’s a lot of pride and pain lying just below the surface of many of these pieces of art that at times tend to reveal themselves after the 2nd and 3rd time visiting the exhibition,” Hurst said.

Bisa Butler’s group portrait, Three Kings, is based on photographs of WWII-era farm workers taken by the Farm Security Administration as part of a New Deal agency created in 1937 to address rural poverty. Working like a painter, Butler combines colors and patterns in her textiles to create complex, compelling imagery.

Another artist, Kehinde Wiley, who is best known for painting President Barack Obama’s official portrait, was inspired both by street life and scholarship. Wiley combines references to police mug shots and to 18th- and 19th-century portraiture.

“The curatorial criteria for selection was to select the most incisive, visually and conceptually dynamic works that express the exhibition’s themes—the use of costume and fashion to examine discrimination and injustice, resistance to historical and cultural erasure, how artists adopt and adapt historical sources and reimagine and restage iconographic imagery from the Renaissance to the present to illuminate what has been missed or left out of the stories we tell,” Gray Stites said.

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