Royal Academy pulls artist’s work from gift shop over ‘transphobic’ views

·3 min read
Jess de Wahls - AFP
Jess de Wahls - AFP

The Royal Academy of Arts has pulled an artist’s work from its gift shop following claims she expressed “transphobic” views.

Jess de Wahls was found to be in “conflict” with the values of the institution over opinions expressed in a 2019 blog criticising “gender identity ideology” and the LGBT charity Stonewall.

On Thursday, the RA issued an online statement saying that it had received complaints for selling works “by an artist expressing transphobic views”.

It added that her work “will not be stocked in future”, and thanked those who had complained about it.

The statement on Instagram added: “The RA is committed to Equality, Diversity and Inclusion and does not knowingly support artists who act in conflict with these values

“We would like to reiterate that we stand with the LGBTQ+ community”

Ms de Wahls told The Telegraph that her work had been pulled from the gift shop after a “concerted effort” from online activists over her alleged transphobia.

Jess de Wahls in her London studio  
Jess de Wahls in her London studio

The artist wrote a blog in 2019 which said that a woman is “an adult human female” and “not an identity or feeling”, adding: “I can not accept people’s unsubstantiated assertions that they are in fact the opposite sex to when they were born.”

She argued that the “ideology” of gender politics placed people into reductive boxes, enforced censorship akin to that found in her birthplace of East Germany, and had a detrimental impact on the rights of women and girls.

Ms de Wahls, who claims to have been subjected to online abuse over her views, nevertheless expressed support for the rights of transgender people as a marginalised group.

Maya Forstater, who won an appeal after losing her job following tweets stating trans women were “not women”, has raised concerns over the action taken against Ms de Wahls.

She told The Telegraph: “Organisations have got used to overreacting to complaints of transphobia. They need to take a deep breath, look at the Equality Act and consider that everybody has rights.

“These coordinated complaints ruin people's lives and their reputations and make organisations fearful. It is McCarthyism and many people are afraid.”

The campaign groups Sex Matters has written to the director of the RA in a letter stating: “The Royal Academy is carrying out an egregious and blatant belief discrimination against textile artist Jess de Wahls.”

The letter claims the decision to pull the artist's work came after a “handful of coordinated complaints”, adding that the decision goes against “your values as a forum for artistic expression”.

The group has urged the RA to reinstate Ms de Wahls' works and apologise to the artist.

The RA made a statement on Instagram 
The RA made a statement on Instagram

Ms de Wahls, originally from Germany, has established herself as a textile artist making embroidered portraits, often dealing with feminism.

Her work was sold in the RA gift shop, where prints of prominent and controversial artists have previously been made available for sale.

Prints of the work of Paul Gauguin, who reportedly had sexual relationships with a succession of young girls, were sold during the 2020 exhibition Gauguin and the Impressionists.

Artist and sculptor Eric Gill, now known to have sexually abused his daughters, was an associate of the RA during his lifetime.

The RA has been approached for comment.