ABSTRACT

Faith Ringgold’s French Collection story quilt series opens with Dancing at the Louvre (1991), in which the fictional central character, Willia Marie Simone, her friend Marcia and Marcia’s three daughters, finally reach the gallery in which Leonardo’s Mona Lisa hangs. On arrival, the three girls break into a spontaneous dance of joy; in the space reserved for paying hushed tribute to a Renaissance masterpiece, the canonical tradition of western fine art is reinscribed by this dance. Exploring the work’s subversive address to history, Marcia Tucker writes, ‘After all, culture belongs to each and every one of us, right? And we’re allowed to celebrate it anyway we’d like.’3 But the culture represented by European fine art has not always belonged to everyone. Ringgold’s work is a retort to this history, a history which violently excluded people of the African diaspora, and especially black women.4